ThirdYearStudentsshowcasingprofessional collaborations with idontloveyouanymore and In Bed With My Brother
The new theatre is a great addition to the facilities at The Arden School Of Theatre and the students are clearly relishing the opportunities it affords. The third year students have been involved in artistic collaborations with two very different companies; Manchester based digital art and performance company idontloveyouanymore and the highly innovative InBedWithMyBrother. The resulting works are unsurprisingly totally different but both demonstrate an impressive set of performance skills and creative ability.
Lit By The Light Of A Thousand Losses devised with idontloveyouanymore incorporates verbatim theatre and digital media to create a really haunting and beautiful performance. Using publicly submitted memories of loss the performance speaks of loss on so many levels from the covid themes, losses of love and liberty through to themes around possible impending loss of our very identity as human beings. The students handle this material with real sensitivity, compassion and wry humour. It is a really beautiful piece that could easily translate to a touring production. The digital backdrop evokes new stars created and old one imploding and is a nice touch that enhances rather than overshadows the performers. There are several standout performances but the overall calibre of student work is impressive. The nine students on stage were worked in a truly collaborative manner and their ability to create space, pause and silence for each other in this very reflective piece was brave, assure and highly effective.
The second production was an madcap explosion of high energy that is so typical of shows like We Are Ian and Tricky Second Album from In Bed With My Brother. THE SHOWCASE has a reality gameshow element and alludes to Orwell’s 1984. This dance focused highly physical piece never lets up on pace and the students impress with their stamina alone! Their capacity to maintain momentum and keep a technical tightness in this anarchic production is commendable. The audience observes this repetitive dance and the performers enthusiastic desire to impress the disembodied voice directing them while also receiving behavioural response cues as if we are a TV audience reading an autocue. The resulting hi-velocity order starts to break down into chaos as performers falter or are cast aside or humiliated. There are elements here of a Forced Entertainment production as the music and the dance endlessly loop and repeat. The end result is funny, unsettling and provocative. This is how I imagine Squid Games might play out in a student theatre performance workshop…at least here they the only blood spilled was tomato pulp and sweat!!! Though I’d love to know if the crutch wielding performer was injured in rehearsals or elsewhere…either way a great embodiment of theshow must go on!!
Devised with and Performed by Jerry Killick, Richard Lowdon and Claire Marshall
Forced Entertainment bring their latest show Real Magic to real theatres and real audiences and so the endless loop of absurdity continues. Attempting to critique this show is probably as ridiculously hopeless and pointless as trying to guess the word on this gameshow/mind reading show. Real Magic is like musical chairs for demented amnesiacs.
Three people on stage. Three roles to adopt. Three possible words to guess. Three answers given regardless of who asks who the question. Three chicken suits. The magic perhaps lies in the myriad of ways this short, basic scenario plays out. The three actors gift this absurd, apparently mediocre scene with a wide range of emotional pitch and timing that shifts through upbeat fun to encouragement to intimidation to sheer desperation.
From early on it is apparent that this fruitless task is looping just like the canned applause. The internal dilemma for the watcher is when is this going to end?…..Will it magically resolve?…. Do I care?…..How many more times can they do this?…..Can they really keep this going for 85 minutes?
At certain points Jerry asks the would-be mindreader Are you feeling good? Are you feeling safe? Are you feeling confident? The same might be asked of the audience as the show progresses. Ultimately I guess this show is challenging our consumption of mediocre television shows and our sometimes tunnel vision around our perceptions about our world. If nothing else Real Magic is a masterclass in the art of cognitive dissonance and the risks of stubbornly resisting change.
The overly long performance does hit home the sense of time wasting watching banal television. There are lots of allusions to crappy gameshows parodying hosts such as Chris Tarrant. The word CARAVAN in this pointless show within a show is a cheeky reminder of 70/80s shows where people won caravans but didn’t own driving licences or cars.
I found myself drifting at times but perhaps that was exactly the intention. Did the chicken suits remind me of the jumpsuits worn in Guantanamo Bay? How many people were relentlessly interrogated when they could never knowingly answer certain questions in the way the interrogator desired? Was this absurd and bizarre scene a cut from the impenetrable Red Room in Twin Peaks? I keep seeing Jerry on the floor, sweaty and wild eyed like Killer Bob, with Claire in her evening dress as Laura Palmer and affable Richard in the suit as Agent Cooper. Perhaps I just watch too much television and need to go to the theatre more.
If I took anything useful from the show it was questioning How do we elicit change? Is it by encouragement, co-operation, education, by example or by intimidation? Or perhaps more worrying is the fear that we neverchange and just like the characters in Real Magic we are trapped in a nightmarish loop repeating our mistakes over and over and always failing to learn from them.