Endless featuring N:Dless at The Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth

59383841_725584097858200_14030468450091008_n

On Tuesday evening I was kindly invited to the press night of Endless featuring N:Dless, a brand new, documentary style piece of gig theatre about a fictional band who nearly rose to epic stardom, produced by Trifle Gathering Productions (a local Cornish company). I love supporting new writing in the South West, and it was great to visit The Drum for the first time in years – it definitely made me feel as though I was back at the Edinburgh Fringe!

The cast was comprised of four performers, each of whom contributed something unique to the overall performance, yet they also worked together brilliantly as a dysfunctional unit. Sally Crooks (manager and co-producer of Trifle Gathering Productions) portrayed Eggy, a youthful yet wise member of the group. I adored her enthusiasm and of course, those dungarees!! Mary Woodvine played the role of Sarey, a stunning Irish-woman with an incredible voice… and that accent was flawless. Dean Rehman was the angry and potentially misunderstood Malcom – the leader of the group (by his own description!). Dave was portrayed by the talented Joe Carey – potentially the most understated of the four band members, but in the most brilliant way. I very much enjoyed his forays into actor musicianship through his playing of both the saxophone and the didgeridoo! Not many shows can boast a didgeridoo, that’s for sure.

The show was split into two halves: the highs and the lows. Advertised as a music documentary for the stage, it begins with the four band members of N:Dless talking about themselves, their lives and the ups and downs of band life. I really liked the way that the audience learned about how the band came to life, and the time jumps between the past and present day were done very cleverly indeed, gradually piecing together a timeline of the band’s existence.

One element that I thought worked really well was the use of video on the back wall. The videos were often used to distract the audience during scene or costume changes, and it really did work! This further contributed to the documentary feel of the production, as we got to see interviews with the band’s supposed contemporaries such as Basement Jaxx and Chumbawamba (yes I did just have to Google that name – at times I felt a little too young to understand some of the 90s references!). The screen also worked well in informing the audience of time and location shifts, and the fact that a lot of the locations were local to the South West was a nice personal touch.

There were plenty of funny moments in the script (by Kyla Goodey and Sally Crooks), but it touched on several more serious themes too, including strained family relationships, mental health issues and terminal illness. I felt that Dave’s storyline towards the end was particularly moving, as the most easygoing and jokey band member suddenly had something terrible to deal with. The heated argument scenes between Eggy and Malcolm were brilliantly written too, and I’m sure that every audience member could relate to at least one of the complex storylines included in the script.

As I mentioned earlier, the small venue felt so ‘fringey’ to me. There was a strong connection between the on stage characters and the audience, constantly breaking the fourth wall, particularly during the gig scenes. The performers ran up and down the aisle, high fived people in the audience, and even directed certain lyrics at individual people! I also enjoyed the exchange between Malcom and the sound guy at the back of the theatre, yet again making the whole experience seem a lot friendlier than larger scale theatre productions. It was a shame that the audience weren’t a bit more hyped up though – this particular Plymouth audience was rather quiet and tame! (Especially during the ‘I say ‘N’, you say ‘Dless” sequence which I found very funny and definitely joined in with!).

I really enjoyed watching this production which felt half way between a theatre show and a gig. As a musician myself it was fascinating watching the scenes where the band were working out new songs and chord progressions, and I definitely believed that they were a real band at times! I would certainly recommend this production to anyone with an interest in what goes on behind the scenes in a band’s life, but also to anyone who enjoys theatre (especially new writing!).

 

Endless featuring N:Dless runs at The Drum at Theatre Royal Plymouth until 4th May, before embarking on a tour of several South West venues. View tour dates here.

Disclaimer: I was invited to the press night of Endless featuring N:Dless but all views and opinions expressed here are my own.

Advertisements

Review – Tamar Broadbent’s Get Ugly! – Edinburgh Fringe 2017

Get Ugly - courtesy of Rebecca Pitt

It’s not often that you find a one woman show which is so hashtag relatable (sorry) to 21st century life, but Tamar Broadbent’s Get Ugly definitely manages it. The show mixes stand up comedy and musical theatre style songs to create a fluid show which certainly entertained many different audiences during this year’s festival.

The first thing that struck me upon entering the space was how intimate it was. At this Wednesday afternoon performance there was an audience of around 20-25 people, all facing the small stage area on which Tamar performed – although the aforementioned stage was already partially occupied by a keyboard! Tamar herself welcomed us into the room which was a nice touch – I liked the fact that the performer/audience divide was blurred before the show had even begun, and this was a trend which continued throughout the performance – I very much felt like the audience were Tamar’s new friends, which was such a nice relationship to form within the space of an hour.

The show features several clever and amusing songs about modern day life, specifically focusing on female problems and dating. I particularly enjoyed the musical take on the concept of ‘Facebook suicide’ and the song about dating featuring a male audience member playing the recorder was a hilarious touch. However, these comedic songs were juxtaposed by a heartfelt number about Tamar’s sister, which balanced out the audience’s emotions towards the end of the show.

The target audience is primarily young (single) women, which is understandable given that this is the demographic that Tamar herself falls into, meaning that there were some jokes and songs which were not particularly relevant to certain audience members – but this is surely unavoidable when the material has been written by one individual and is very much rooted in personal experience. But the fact that the show is so rooted in personal experience is definitely a good thing, as it makes it more authentic and real, contributing to the intimate feel of the piece which was apparent from the moment that the audience entered the performance space.

I got the feeling that Get Ugly is a show which changes every single day, depending on who happens to be in the audience – and that’s such a healthy and interesting way to approach a one woman show. It was certainly nice when Tamar referred to us as ‘a very nice Wednesday afternoon audience’, and it was such an awesome feeling to know that we, as a collective, were witnessing a show which would never be performed exactly as we saw it again. I suppose that’s the joy of a solo show in a small performance space – the audience and performer both get so much out of it.

Tamar Broadbent’s Get Ugly is such a perfect show for the Fringe. It’s interesting and constantly engaging, and I’m sure that every audience member was able to relate to and laugh about at least one 21st century first world problem! The venue, while small, is the perfect place for the show, and Tamar’s endearing, likeable and hilarious personality really shines through both her stand up comedy and her original songs. I can’t wait to see where she takes the show next.

1. So I’ve graduated… what next?

DSC_0784

Having graduated with a BA in Music a couple of weeks ago, I’m constantly being faced with the question: ‘what next?’. Thankfully I now have a concrete answer to that question because as of September, I have a proper full time adult job! But before that begins I’ve got a very exciting, theatre filled August – hence my (potentially silly idea) to try and write a blog post every day this month.

I’ve come to realise that this summer is likely to be my final long summer holiday, so I figured I’d better make the most of it. Having filled June and July with volunteering and working in schools to help with musical theatre projects, London trips, job interviews and flat hunting, August sees even more travelling and theatre, as well as a big birthday! First of all I’m taking part in a Youth Music Theatre UK (YMT UK) project as an assistant musical director for their show Jabberwocky, which is to be performed at the Theatre Royal Margate from 18th-20th August (plug plug plug). Having done a project with the company last summer in a lesser role I’m so excited to be involved again and have even more creative input on a fantastic piece of original writing.

I’m also going to visit the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the first time at the end of the month too. I’ve never been before, mostly due to the fact that I live in Devon, and Scotland is a very long way away from here! However, this year I’m going to deal with the lengthy travel times to go and see lots of theatre for a few days, including some shows which my friends from my (old) uni are taking up (writing ‘old’ uni felt weird. I haven’t had to do that before… *graduate crisis ensues*).

The end of August will see me coming back down to reality from the idyllic world of theatre and moving into my new house and preparing to start my proper job. It’s been and will continue to be a summer full of massive changes… I just find it a bit weird that your whole future is mapped out for you until this point: school, sixth form, uni… but then what? I’ve always been adamant that I didn’t want to move back home after uni, and although I have done that for the summer, it’s only temporary. However, when viewing places to live and being faced with adult talk about taxes and deposits and bills and pension schemes, a very small part of me wished I could escape it all and remain a well looked after child at home! But no, I love the freedom I’ve had at uni and I think continuing that immediately is the best thing for me to do – especially as my new job is close to the city I’ve lived in for the last 3 years.

So yes, expect many a blog this month. I’m excited to chronicle all my new experiences this summer and hope that no one gets too fed up with my incessant posting!

Get Ugly! – An interview with Tamar Broadbent

Get Ugly - courtesy of Rebecca Pitt
Photo credit: Rebecca Pitt

I was lucky enough to get the chance to interview comedy writer and performer Tamar Broadbent about her show, Get Ugly! which she is taking to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer. Here’s what she had to say about it:

Hi Tamar. Your one woman show Get Ugly is returning to the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Could you tell me a bit about the show?

Get Ugly is a musical comedy about navigating newly single life after a break-up, with songs and stories about weird online dates, dodging hipsters, envying gym girls, freaking out about STDs and desperately trying to keep body hair under control. It’s about learning how to be a strong, independent woman (after figuring out what that actually means) and re-discovering your self-confidence after feeling (emotionally) like you’ve fallen bum-first in a dirty puddle.

How did the show’s premise come about? How much of it is rooted in personal experience?

 It’s all inspired by autobiographical events. When funny things happen that I believe are noteworthy, I try to turn them into songs. If they’re not a whole song, I try to turn them into a joke. For me it’s all about transforming life into lolz, trauma into un-tempo catchy tunes and a relatable lesson learned into something an audience can enjoy for an hour.

You’ve taken the show to Australia – how has the show been received so far by audiences across the globe?

At the Perth Fringe Festival earlier this year, Get Ugly was nominated for Best Comedy Show, which was incredibly exciting and made me spend ages dancing by myself on a train platform. I’ve also performed the show in Prague and Germany where it went down really well. I think certain things are universal… like heartbreak and vaginas.

How does it feel to be performing your own self written show at the largest arts festival in the world?

 Edinburgh is my favourite place in the world. I know it like the back of my foot – sort of and some bits of it still surprise me, but I’ve performed at the festival for five years running and it feels like my home away from home. To be performing this show there, having taken it across the globe and back, feels like what I’ve been excitedly waiting to do for ages.

Have you made any changes to the show for this year’s stint in Edinburgh?

I’ve added two new songs and am saying a lot of things I haven’t previously said (that makes it sound like they’re ground-breaking things – they’re not. Perhaps compost-breaking). The whole thing’s had a re-vamp and is finally where I feel I’ve always wanted it to be. I’ve very proud of the show and can’t wait to share it with everyone.

What is it like performing a one woman show every night? Does it get tiring being the solo performer?

It of course requires you to be in good shape (she says eating pizza and drinking wine) but I find performing a show that you love can give you more energy not less. I once did a student play at the Fringe that I hated and afterwards I slept until December. Now – I am very much alive and awake and not at all addicted to caffeine (stop shaking, Tamar!).

What do you think Get Ugly can teach audiences about 21st century female empowerment?

 I’m not a fan of the word ‘teach’ because I’m not sure I’m 100% qualified to impart wisdom when I still tie my shoelaces using the bunny ears method. However, I hope that Get Ugly will ‘show’ the audience that we all go through those ‘ugly’ bits of life that we hope people will never find out about, that you never see in a perfectly filtered Instagram existence. That we all have awkward, mortifying moments in life and that they don’t define us – that it’s possible to celebrate them and point and laugh at them and even turn them into songs!

I would love the show to teach that being bullied by the media, others and ourselves about how beautiful we think we are or are not is a miserable waste of time. Like many girls I grew up believing that beauty was value, and I allowed my sense of self-worth to be affected by how ‘attractive’ I thought I was, and especially how ‘attractive’ I thought other people (namely, boys) thought I was. Performing comedy was the first thing that really helped me get away from this mode of thinking and it’s something I wish I could make the teenage girls believe who I now see obsessively watching make-up tutorials on YouTube.

The show’s not overtly about this – I wanted to explore these issues and especially the relationship between appearance and female self-confidence whilst first and foremost telling a very real, human story about heartbreak and loss and, most importantly, making people laugh.

What is your favourite moment in the show and why?

At the moment, it’s a new song I’ve just added which involves an audience member that if you want to find out about you will have to come and see the show (!). It’s crazy and absurd and I love it (the audience seem to as well, which is a real plus!). My favourite moment of the show changes every day though, because the show changes every day.

Have you got any funny stories or mishaps that have happened during performances that you can tell me about?

In Australia, a guy who I’d gotten up on stage with me said, on mic, ‘there’s lipstick on your teeth, that’s why everyone’s laughing at you’. I called him a bearded c**t and we low-fived. It was all very good natured, but the irony didn’t escape me that I performed the rest of a show about how we shouldn’t care so much what we look like whilst trying after every other line to subtly tongue away a non-existent stain from my two front teeth, all the time crying on the inside.

Where would you like to take Get Ugly next?

America. Canada. Hull. Anywhere that will have me!

 Tamar Broadbent: Get Ugly will be playing at Underbelly Med Quad (Clover), Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG from Wednesday 2nd – Monday 28th August 2017 (not 14th) at 17:30.