Tag: Nottingham Playhouse

Calling all budding directors: Free workshop at Nottingham Playhouse

Aspiring directors will be able to pick up a host of helpful hints at Nottingham Playhouse on Saturday at a free workshop.
The Direct Access workshop, organised by the JMK Trust, will give you an opportunity to explore the craft of theatre making in this practical introduction and takes place between 11am and 5.30pm.
The JMK Trust was set up in memory of promising director James Menzies-Kitchin, who staged his first production at the age of 26. He died suddenly in 1996 at the age of 28.
To book a place visit www.jmktrust.org/workshops-and-events or email jo@jmktrust.org.

 

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Vivid depiction of D. H. Lawrence in Phoenix Rising at Nottingham Playhouse

When Paul Slack finished his one-man show Phoenix Rising at Nottingham Playhouse on Friday evening, there was just one person on the stage. I am stating the obvious here – but such was his stage presence and command of his characters that at times, it felt like there was more than one performer.

The play, written by Campbell Kay, chronicles Lawrence’s early life in the  Nottinghamshire mining town of Eastwood. Set in a sparsely furnished room on Ile de Port-Cros, France, we see Lawrence two years before his death as he looks back on his childhood – his friendships, family, school life and early career, all of which shaped his literary career.

For those of us who know Nottinghamshire well, the play evoked the landscape perfectly. We see how Sherwood Forest and the legend of Robin Hood fired the imagination of the young Bertie (as he was known as a boy) and that he believed the collieries were a blight on the landscape. Lawrence’s childhood was not without its problems; his father was a drunk, he lost his beloved brother to pneumonia and he was an outsider who preferred to read and play with the lasses while the other boys in his class could not wait to finish school and go down’t pit.

Despite this, his childhood memories are infused with a warmth and gentle humour and perhaps what strikes you most of all is how ordinary Lawrence is. Of course, he went on to become of the most celebrated figures in the Modernist movement – but at this point, he is taking his first nervous steps into the literary world and is somewhat bemused by American poet Ezra Pound. At an event organised by writer and editor Ford Madox Ford, he recites one of his poems in a Nottinghamshire dialect with his back turned to the audience which I found both comical and endearing.

The success of this production comes both from Kay’s beautifully written text and Slack’s engaging performance. He moved seamlessly between different voices and really engaged us in the narrative.

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Tyranny in Europe: Belarus Free Theatre put on a powerful show at Nottingham Playhouse

Belarus is a country that borders those in the EU – and yet it has been described as ‘Europe’s last dictatorship’. Many people in western Europe know little about the former Soviet state nestled between Poland and Russia but it is a place where government agents threaten, kidnap, torture and murder citizens for daring to oppose it.

The Belarus Free Theatre is one of the cultural groups banned by the government and their performance of Discover Love at Nottingham Playhouse last night was a bold statement against this repressive regime. The cast members should have performed as part of the last month’s NEAT11, but had their passports and visas revoked.

On one level, this is a simple true-life love story. A young girl Irina (played by Maryna Yurevich) describes her almost idyllic childhood and she appears to unfazed by the fact that she is living under the Soviet regime. She eventually falls in love with a teacher, Anatoly (played by Oleg Sidorchik) and the tale is infused with a warm humour, with the iron grip of Moscow seemingly a world away from this small village in Belarus. Their relationship matures over the years and they build careers and have children after moving to the capital Minsk. Their story is incredibly human – they struggle financially and their relationship goes through some difficult patches, but they remain united.

Half way through the play, Anatoly utters five words which resonate like a death knell: “And then they killed me”. It sounds strange to hear him say it in the first person and it makes the audience gasp – these ordinary lives that we had been following are suddenly cut short by the disappearance of one and the grief of the other.  Anatoly is tortured and killed by the government and his story is mirrored by countless others who have faced human rights abuses in Belarus. In some ways, it reminded me of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, except these events are not fictional nor do they hark back to a bygone age.

There was a real sense of physicality in this production. The actors drove the narrative forward not just with their powerful words, but also with the way in which they used their bodies on stage, particularly in the scene where Anatoly is tortured. The lights are dimmed and he throws himself around, depicting the terrible beatings inflicted upon him.

Overall, this was an incredibly moving show – my only minor criticism would be that not all of the music fitted the action on stage. And as powerful as music is, sometimes silence – or nothingness – can evoke the mood more effectively.

For details on up coming shows, visit the Playhouse website.

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Landscape of dreams and madness in Woyzeck at Nottingham Playhouse

Before the curtain had risen at last night’s performance of Georg Buchner’s unfinished work Woyzeck at Nottingham Playhouse, we were greeted by a long-haired, demonic-looking narrator, resembling a circus entertainer who set the tone for what was to come.

Performed by members of the Deutches Theater Berlin and directed by Jorinde Drose, it is a tale of poverty, the class system, adultery, jealousy and murder played out in a surreal, almost post-apocalyptic landscape. The play has a strange, dream-like atmosphere which makes it difficult to set it in any particular time or place. There are references to Russian Cossacks and Groschen (pennies), suggesting the action may be taking place in the 19th Century somewhere in central or eastern Europe – but the characters who inhabit this world, such as the Doctor and the Army Captain, are both abstract and absurd.

And yet this is a touchingly human play. It tells the tale of a poor soldier, Woyzeck who has to support his wife Marie and their child so he works for the Army Captain and lends his body to medical science to make enough money. But when Marie betrays him by having an affair with the dashing Drum Major, he descends into madness and finally murders her for what she has done.

The fact too that this play is performed in German – with its more concrete words – emphasises the physicality of relationships and the ways in which mental turmoil can be played out by real actions such as drunkenness and murder. In one memorable scene, the Drum Major – played by the comical and wildly brilliant Christoph Franken – drinks copious amounts of schnapps, pours it straight into a heartbroken Woyzeck’s mouth and throws it across the stage, giving the impression of each of the characters’ anguish spilling out uncontrollably.

The world of bar room brawls and lost love, is perfectly evoked by the songs of Tom Waits which sound track the play. Performed by the fantastic band, some of the pieces of music hang heavy with a sense of longing, while the experimental doodling jazz of others capture the characters’ unravelling mental states.

The play, with its echoes of Hamlet, Arthur Schnitzler’s Lieutnant Gustl and Werner Herzog’s 1979 film version of Woyzeck where the wild-eyed Klaus Klinski plays the part of lead character, is one of the best productions I have seen for a long time. It is what theatre should be – experimental, passionate and above all, not stuffy. Go and see it if you can.

Woyzeck was performed as part of the first ever NEAT11 (Nottingham European Arts Festival).

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