Feast

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I went into Feast expecting intensity and color and maybe even a little bit of fear. Perhaps the fear part came from the posters I had seen in the underground and around town. A menacing picture (shown above) that seemed to pair, in my mind, the title “Feast” with the word “beast.” I came into it expecting monsters and scary stories. While I wasn’t exactly wrong, I most certainly was not right. Feast is a show about the journey that 3 African sisters have throughout history starting from tribal Africa, all the way up to 2013.

The story (a collaboration of 5 writers) was a little jumbled but had really great scenes including African American students protesting at a diner counter, an encounter with a cuban prostitute, and a scene where an african athlete is made fun of by her fellow black peers for having a white coach. There were great messages shown in these scenes but what really made Feast a “go-see” is the way the story is told.

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Not only is there a live chicken involved in the storytelling, but the mastery of the dance, singing, and use of light projection is captivating. Not a minute goes by without one of the characters dancing around, and there was a live band barely visible behind a beaded curtain in the very back of the stage. There was a lot of singing involved as well, which worked really well with the story line since the songs were all based on or about the african heritage/culture.

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But the thing that was the most spectacular was the use of light projection. There was a beaded curtain that moved back and forth on the stage and dancers would use it to create a really cool effect when they leaned in towards it. There was also projections being thrown on the curtain. Sometimes just shapes (like when a person disappeared into the beads, there would be a lit up image of their body remaining on that area of the curtain for a while), other times, words, names, images of scenery, etc. Another cool effect resembled that of a magician’s trick (which I have decided not to expose on this blog). Overall, Feast was a very enjoyable experience. While the storyline could have been clearer, the message was very clear and the way it was presented was extremely entertaining and inspiring.

~A

“Twelfth Night” on the Twelfth of February

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I was very impressed with myself on this one. “Twelfth Night” on Feb. 12th. Doesn’t get more exciting than that. ha. ha. Anyway this show had been featured on the popular website “Timeout London” so I decided to try it out. Overall, a very interesting, and intimate experience. My train was late so I was nervous I would miss the show entirely. I ended up running (ok speed walking) out of the station and turning down what looked to be a purely residential area. Sure enough, there was the “Lion and Unicorn Theatre” which apparently is also the “Lion and Unicorn Pub.” Not a bad thing to discover, but nevertheless unexpected. I raced into the pub, was directed up the stairs and was confronted with a room about the size of my living room with chairs and benches set up in it. I quickly moved to the first bench I came upon (conveniently right up front) and about one minute later the light dimmed and the show began.

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It wasn’t a bad show. Perhaps unclear at first but, hey, that’s Shakespeare. About three fourths of the way in, I suddenly heard the name of one of the characters (Sebastian) and it clicked. It was the Shakespeare story that inspired the feature film, “She’s the Man” with Amanda Bynes! After this revelation the plot suddenly became a lot clearer to me. I began to realize the subtle (a little too subtle) hints that the show was giving the audience. For example, in the story there is a pair of twins, one a boy and one a girl. The girl dresses up as a boy and they both are mistook for each other. I didn’t quite understand this even though the outfit choices the director picked for both characters were similar. I think, because of the complexities of Shakespeare, they should have been dressed identically, but for those seasoned Shakespeare fans, I’m sure they understood the similarities of the dress long before I did.

Some notable topics to hit on for this play would be the modernization of it, the amount of actors/actresses involved, and the songs included. This particular performance decided to have it based in the 21st century complete with cell phones, Ipods, and modern dress. In my opinion, they did not commit to it enough. The dress was modern but there was no attempt to modernize anything in the text. Poor Malvolio had to wear yellow stockings with criss crossed garters? Not something from this century at all. This type of flip flop on present versus past made the performance look sloppy. Also, at points some of the comedic characters would burst out into modern songs (i.e. Britney Spear’s and Will. I. Am.’s new mix “Scream and Shout”). While entertaining, it wasn’t very relevant to the play or even that particular scene.

I was impressed with the amount of actors in the performance itself. I knew the play had a lot of characters but there were almost as many actors. In such a small space, this very much impressed me. One thing that was confusing about it however is that some actors with smaller roles played more than one role. I understand the need for this but (again because it was Shakespeare) it was confusing to differentiate these different smaller characters. Perhaps this was because the characters were dressed similarly or acted similarly, or that their names were pretty much thrown into the wind, but any way you put it, I was very confused with the smaller roles of the play and their purposes.

Lastly, the songs in the play. Having not read the play, I don’t know how many of these songs were actually called for in the text, but from a personal view they got very old very fast and did not hold much entertainment value for me. The singer was talented, but his songs did not flow well with the music accompaniment and dragged on for a while. I do not know what it is with all the plays I have seen, but they all have included some form of song (musicals obviously need it so i’m excluding them from my wrath) and it is extremely annoying to me. Plays do not need songs, some sort of background music may be appropriate, but random song interludes are not the answer to jazzing up an otherwise lackluster performance.

One of this play’s saving graces are the comedic characters; Mary, Sir Toby, and Sir Andrew. These actors were extremely hilarious (one even coming out in his first scene in a kangaroo suit complete with young joey). It was very entertaining to watch them and mildly disconcerting when they got so close to my bench that I feared I would trip them or they would wrestle and one would ultimately land on me. This play was very entertaining, but judging it from a critical view points out many of its flaws. One last positive thing I have to say about it was that I was truly captivated for (most of) the whole performance, and didn’t realize that the play had lasted from 7:30 to 10:15. For not making Shakespeare something to be suffered through, I salute you people of the Lion and Unicorn Pub! ahem.. Theatre!

~Ava

I know how I feel about “I Know How I Feel About Eve”

 

This play was a very interesting experience for me. It reminded me a little bit about the “out-there” plays I have done in college. It was located in a very small theatre and I was about 2 feet away from the stage so I got to see everything up close. The opening scene consisted of the woman protagonist hula hooping to a remix of “Sweet Nothing” by Florence and the Machines. This modernized the play immediately since that song is currently on my running playlist (while I meander through Kensington Park I might add). 

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The set also went along with the modern feel. The floor had weird blue light stripes mapping the floor and casting out an eeirie machine-like glow. This delt the play a certain sci-fi feel. It also contributed to the transition periods when the actors moved their sets around, and changed their costumes for the next scene. I found the transitions distracting. It really kicked me out of the groove of the story. The transitions also were paired with fast-paced, harsh sounding music. The music made sense to me because it went along with the transition scenery, but the fact that the actors were moving their own stuff felt wrong. This feeling was especially enhanced for me when a transition began and an actress literally stopped sitting down immediately after hearing the music and began moving props. This action might have been a cool attempt at matching the “techy” theme of the transitions by moving in a robotic way. But, this technique was not consistent with one or any of the actors so the transitions looked sloppy. I just really didn’t understand what the director was going for with the transitions.. Especially since everything else in the transitions did seem so intentional and was paired with the play really well. 

This play’s topic was pretty dark and depressing. I still enjoyed the story and the clear frustrations, hurt, pain, anger, and love that the characters went through. It sort of reminded me of a “PG” Ray Bradbury story (although it didn’t get THAT weird, hence the PG rating). That being said, the delivery of the lines left something to be desired. I didn’t feel a good connection between the husband and wife (not to mention that the wife looked like she was 45 and the husband looked like he was 30). They spoke their lines in a deadpan way which may be directed to a more british audience? I personally didn’t care for the style. 

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Overall, I’d say this play was a very interesting performance to uncover. There are a lot of elements and while they necessarily didn’t work for me, I think they did work on a few of my classmates that also saw the production. The topic was interesting, the story kept people in, but the casting/acting left something to be desired. I think the actors separately did a good job, but lacked chemistry together. Also, the transitions/set use in the transitions were interesting but had some major flaws (when someone gets as bothered/confused by a transition as I was, its a major flaw). It was a worthwhile experience, and I would recommend it to a person who likes to experience modern/futuristic plays that baffle and bewilder the audience. 

~A

One Man, Two Gov’nors

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I’m back. And this time I’m talking about “One Man, Two Gov’nors,” the show that was made famous by british comedian James Corden as the “one man” (aka Francis Henshall). I didn’t get to see Corden, but the actor who played Henshall, Owain Arthur, was nevertheless very talented and entertaining. The show is based on a commedia dell’arte story “Servant of Two Masters” by playwright Carlo Goldoni in 1743. Commedia dell’arte is an Italian comedic performance technique. It even mentioned commedia in the play itself which I found particularly enjoyable considering I learned about the practice in a theatre class last year (always very exciting to apply classwork to real life).  What you need to know about it is it includes a lot of physical comedy (protagonist getting hurt, getting into stupid/silly situations of his own accord, etc.) This play has gotten extremely good reviews in the past, so I was expecting a very enjoyable outing at the theatre. What I felt when I left the theatre was not so much joy as it was mixed feelings…

To start with, before the play even began, there was a four man band that began to play this sort of country/pop song dated to the period (60s in England). There was an acoustic guitar, a base, and even a washboard which, although it was played with a lot of skill, was nevertheless puzzling to me. The song was never-ending and I found myself silently pleading for the show to begin. Much to my chagrin. The band was a fully-integrated part of the play. At every set change, various members of the band would come to the stage and sing some hokey song about trivial things that may have mildly related to the story but not really.. The washboard player was pretty impressive playing various instruments like the spoons, and the drums (his most mainstream instrument). I understand having entertainment during set changes and I think it was a nice change of pace. At some points the actors would sing onstage in character and that was actually entertaining. But the band’s songs fell flat and I found not real purpose for their continued presence. Perhaps I would have felt differently if their songs had related to the story more, or if they had had small supporting roles in the actual play, or even if they reacted to the characters while they had singing cameos. 

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Another interesting part of the play was the audience interaction. This interaction and the banter between Henshall and the audience was my favorite part of the play and the part that felt the most “fresh” and exciting. At one point Henshall pulled up two men to pull a suitcase across the stage. Henshall asked the men where they were from and one of them answered “Canada” which was hilarious considering not 5 minutes before there had been a joke about Canadians. I figured the boy was either being smart, or it was huge coincidence. Anyway, Henshall proceeded to interact with the men for a while, going so far as to whisk them back-stage and out of sight of other characters in the play. The men finally got back to their seats but their performances were far from done. A little later in the play Henshall asked the audience if anyone had a sandwich (presumably rhetorical), to which the older man (one not from Canada) shouted that he did indeed have one. This seemed to catch the actor off guard, but he went along with it and executed some very witty one-liners and jokes. The audience interaction here seemed very spontaneous and it gave life to the predictable comedy that the play had so far presented to the audience. Then came Christine. Poor Christine was just a 30ish woman in the front row who REALLY did not want to volunteer to go on the stage. Henshall literally had to drag her and force her to do everything he wanted which consisted of holding a food tray while he piled tons of food onto it. She was onstage for at least 10 minutes poor thing. He made her hide behind doors and on her hands and knees under a table (she was wearing a dress and kept trying to tug it down poor thing). Finally, after thinking he accidentally set fire to Christine’s dress, Henshall threw a bowl of water on her and “put her out” with fire extinguisher foam… It was at this point that I sincerely hoped that Christine was an actress. Even though it was later revealed that Christine was in on it (she bowed at curtain call), I think this part of the play was the most convincing and entertaining part of the play to me. All the other actors (save for Henshall), while staying true to the over-exaggeration and absurdity of Commedia, felt like bland and poor imitations of textbook Commedia to me. There were some funny parts with the crazy “Actor” boyfriend parading around thinking he was the next BIG STAR! But, other than that the characters blended together and didn’t have much of a presence. 

“One Man” was not a bad play, it had a lot of entertaining quips. I fear the hype and the positive reviews of the play may have gotten my hopes up. This play reminded me of 39 Steps in its attempts to entertain through exaggerated comedy, but where 39 Steps was full of energy and faced-paced, comedy, “One Man” fell flat and felt 2-dimensional. Even the scenery was dull and nothing special. Boring flats painted in predictable colors, nothing surprising or different. This show was a predictable and “nice experience for a wednesday night, but for those looking to be shocked, dazzled, or intrigued, “One Man, Two Gov’nors” may not be for you. 

~A