Author Archives: amalinovic

VAULT Festival Round-Up: Tar Baby and Das Spiel

tar-baby-headerThe VAULT Festival website professes to give a space to the “bravest and best of the next generation of creators” – and last week that bravery was on display in two very different shows.

Performance artist Desiree Burch’s solo monologue Tar Baby – co-written with playwright Dan Kiltrosser – previously ran at the Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe. The flyer for the show announces “an interactive carnival of race and capitalism – where no one’s a winner, but everyone’s still playing!” A witty, intelligent and acerbic commentary on modern-day racism, it has great depth and profundity, in no small part due to the brilliance and infectious exuberance of Burch, who captivates the audience from the start.

Like Tar Baby, Das Spiel is a one-person monologue which includes a lot of audience participation, but it takes an altogether different bent. Devised and performed by Vienna illusionist Philipp Oberlohr, Das Spiel is billed as “psychological immersive theatre” and proved very popular at the Festival, with almost every performance sold out during its run. It is not your typical magic act: in addition to being a member of the Austrian Magic Circle, Oberlohr has studied physical theatre, so the performance is very creatively conceived.

Both Tar Baby and Das Spiel have now sadly finished their runs at the Vault Festival, but I urge you to see both if you ever get the chance.

Read my full review of both shows on Litro

The Sun Shining On Her Hands: A timely feminist reinterpretation of Woyzeck’s Marie

trip-the-lightIn Georg Büchner’s fragmentary, expressionistic play Woyzeck, attention is traditionally focused on the eponymous protagonist.

However, The Sun Shining On Her Hands is a creative reimagining by Trip the Light Theatre, an exciting company influenced by physical theatre.

Crucially, they give the spotlight to the much more sidelined character of Marie, who has a child with Woyzeck but is nonetheless free-spirited, passionate and promiscuous. Marie is someone who pays the ultimate price for transgressing the boundaries of what society considers “decent”.

As such, The Sun Shining On Her Hands offers a very timely feminist interpretation of the character of Marie, while also being an experimental and engaging production in its own right. The combination of fragmentary songs and words – as well as forceful but sometimes gentle, flowing movements – contributes to the intentionally disorientating experience of watching the production.

This is no bad thing; in fact, the swirling confusion and lack of traditional, linear narrative positively recalls the work of Beckett. As the critic John Fuegi so eloquently put it:

The world Büchner depicts…in Woyzeck… is one stripped completely bare of traditional notions of heroism, morality, propriety and decorum.

Ultimately, the bleakness of both Woyzeck and The Sun Shining On Her Hands is most powerfully summarised in a line of Marie’s: “Everything goes to hell anyhow, man and woman alike.”

Read my full review on Litro

An evening of aesthetic decadence

Picture-of-Dorian-Gray-The-Alchemic-Order-review-600x350The Alchemic Order’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is an imaginative production, impressive in its scope. Taking place in a secret location, the performance immerses spectators into a world of Victorian opulence and hedonism – encapsulated most powerfully, of course, by the character of Dorian Gray himself. The immersive atmosphere is evoked through a combination of lavish set pieces and some brilliant verbal jousting between Dorian Gray and Wotton.

The Alchemic Order choose not to follow the ending of the original tale, in which Dorian Gray destroys the painting and, in doing so, destroys himself. This is a strange omission, as this is the apex of Wilde’s story. Also, at just under three hours in length (albeit including the interval), the production is perhaps a touch too long. Finally, it is not made entirely clear to us spectators when we should move to another room – clearer cues would be helpful. However, considering the performance I attended was only The Alchemic Order’s fifth outing of Dorian Gray, this is understandable, they are still feeling their way to an extent.

Small quibbles aside, I’d highly recommend you go to see this unconventional take on a classic of literature – particularly if you are a Wilde fan and wish to indulge in an evening of aesthetic decadence.

Find out more in my full review

Salomé – femme fatale extraordinaire

Salome-The-Space-430x350Salomé is the femme fatale extraordinaire, as uncompromising as she is cruel – a spoiled princess who knows what she wants and won’t settle for less, equal parts virgin and lascivious whore.

Théâtre Libre’s interpretation of Wilde’s Salomé delves deep into the complex and terrifying aspects of Salome’s nature, while also taking a feminist slant: much is made of the objectification she endures from the male gaze.

This version of Salomé is largely compelling. The only thing that jars is Théâtre Libre’s attempt to set it in the modern day (notably when Salomé uses her mobile to take selfies), as this clashes with the archaic, Biblical-sounding language of the play itself. Even so, Liza Weber as Salomé is memorable and utterly convincing, playing up her lascivious, voracious and ultimately brutal nature. Weber’s immensely skilled dancing is the especial highlight and, in combination with well-chosen music and screen projections, amplifies the spectacle of this savage tale.

Check out my full review

Absent review: an intricately imagined theatrical experience

Image by dreamthinkspeak

Image by dreamthinkspeak

The company dreamthinkspeak have never been afraid to take the unconventional approach. As the artistic director Tristan Sharps puts it, they have done “a lot of work in buildings that aren’t theatres”.

Previous spectacles of theirs were staged in abandoned or semi-abandoned spaces including the hidden interiors of a disused department store, the labyrinthine back passsageways of a theatre and unseen spaces in the renowned buildings of Kings College and Somerset House.

Their most recent immersive experience Absent is highly imaginative and intricate in its execution. Taking over the basements of Shoreditch Town Hall and opening up areas that have never been revealed before, it strikingly reimagines the true story of the Duchess of Argyll’s residence at a central London hotel from the 1970s until the 80s, when she was finally evicted, having run out of friends and credit.

It is a highly unusual story and well suited to being playfully experimented with.

Read my full review of Absent here

“Another Kind of Dreaming”: Utopia at the Roundhouse

UTOPIA A new summer installation in the Main Space at the Roundhouse, by Penny Woolcock with designs by BLOCK9. Tuesday 4th - Sunday 23rd August London Photograph by David Levene 4/8/15

Penny Woolcock’s immersive art installation dares us to move towards, as she calls it, “a different audacity, another kind of dreaming”.

Walking through a desolate landscape in which bricks, rubble, fridges, phone boxes and shopping trollies are strewn about, you activate stories – many of which are concerned with living at the sharp end of life in London. Woolcock explains that these are “stories from unexpected sources, things you wouldn’t normally hear about… People tell stories about themselves but this also becomes part of a bigger truth”. This statement unlocks the most urgent aspect of the exhibition: her intent to give a voice to the marginalised.

It has become more crucial than ever to share the stories of those on the fringes of society as a counter narrative to prevailing, often skewed mainstream narratives. This is ultimately what makes Woolcock’s Utopia so timely and important.

Read my full review on Litro

Carmen review: a brutal, explosive denouement

Image by OperaUpClose

Image by OperaUpClose

Rusty oil barrels, wooden pallets, loose tyres and corrugated iron, with a dilapidated, peeling billboard showing an advert of a carefree woman smoking as the backdrop – this is the “torrid South American landscape of dust and concrete” that OperaUpClose describe as central to their vision of Carmen. Yet it is just this middle-of-nowhere feel that paradoxically makes this version of Carmen stand out – small-town ennui, along with heat, is a vital part of the opera’s landscape.

The exuberance of Carmen is played up well in this production: for example, a scene of drunkenness is played very energetically by the excellent cast.

However, the musicians deserve a special mention – a violinist, cellist, pianist and flutist truly bring the score to life, inexorably building up tension before exploding into a brutal denouement.

Read my full review of Carmen at the Soho Theatre