Ablutions at Brewery Theatre

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Mark’s Bread, downstairs from Brewery Theatre, is packed. There’s only ten minutes to go until FellSwoop Theatre invites Bristol to experience Ablutions, “a dark, boozy, grimly funny tale”, so maybe it’s apt that most of us should be buying alcohol?

The theatre doors open and we swarm in on a very hot July night. This pre-Edinburgh fringe show has attracted a full house so seats at the very front may be wise, just a tad cooler.

There is nothing on stage, save 4 people: 3 of them shoo-bopping with instruments and the other is our nameless barman, washing and drying glasses that only he can see. He’s bored; sick of this life of mundanity, up to here with serving the same drinks to the same people, enough already with the scarred hands, ripped and healed over the years by broken glass. What else can he do but turn to drink himself, top shelf whiskey must numb the monotony, the mind-numbs?

His late nights behind the LA bar, his smashes in his wife’s car, his incomprehensible chatter, his refusal to deal with it all are heading him straight to divorce. But he can seek solace in another drink, a different woman, a silent puke, a road trip …

Eoin Slattery is convincing as the bored-shitless barman, his demeanour shouts “fed-up” and his wit is dry. There is an underlying humour in Ablutions, an adaptation of Patrick DeWitt’s short novel, not the sort of humour that has you laughing out loud (though some of the audience do), but more a wry nod towards something you already know, a place you’ve (I’ve?) personally visited.

We meet countless characters – drinking regulars, staff, shop assistants, pick ups – all played by Fiona Mikel and Harry Humberstone. The pair constantly move about the stage, adding spark and relieving us of having to suffer the laconic barman in isolation for over an hour. Mikel plays several women but, throughout, all I really see is his suffering wife and I’m not sure whether that’s lack of versatility/costume change or a deliberate move (is the wife always on the barman’s mind so that all women roll into her, become her?).  Humberstone has the best comedic delivery (or opportunities) and is able to contort his face to get into several parts; Curtis is creepy, the shop assistant is weird, Simon is a dick.

Every now and then these two ping back into place to support the continuous sound of Ben Osborn’s acoustic guitar. At times the music is jarring, at others it’s soothing, but always it is a necessary element to the show.

What I like most about Ablutions is that is has a real narrative and I want genuinely to know what happens next! The story is well told by all four performers and it works as a complete piece. If you’re at Edinburgh Festival, it’s worth a peek and, if you take a drink in with you, you may start to wonder about your own addictions …

Fellswoop Theatre perform Ablutions at Assembly Roxy Downstairs as part of Edinburgh Festival

 

– Review by Becky Condron

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3rd Stage Dance at The Tobacco Factory

Triple Bill – 3rd Stage Dance. On Friday 15th we saw a triple bill by 3rd Stage Dance company at the Tobacco Factory theatre. I am a dance virgin. Well, apart from an ill fated foray to see the ballet in Bath. I didn’t enjoy it, so I was not exactly sure how my experience of this evening was going to be.

The performance this evening took the format of three short pieces with two intervals. As it was, this was perfect for me, as it was a gentle introduction to an art form I am not familiar with, and didn’t make things feel too heavy.

In our first interval, I had a discussion with my date for the night, to see how he was finding it. His response? “ It reminds me of what some people say when they see one of your paintings. I don’t get it!” This quickly turned into a conversation about whether it was important to get it or not. I had found the first part visual, striking and beautiful to look at, and the music had moved me.

Apparently the first piece had been about words, the meaning of words and how they can be used to interpret a story. I didn’t ‘get’ that, but what I did get was that I was in the company of an eclectic and engaged audience, who appeared to be enjoying it as much as I was. So, much like my paintings, does it matter if you ‘get’ it, as long as you can appreciate it visually?

The second section was definitely the strongest of the night for me. I was particularly struck by the energy, vitality and maturity of the piece performed by the youth dance company RISE. In my opinion, they need special commendation for their tight routine set to contemporary music that had me wanting to jump up and join them.

This flowed beautifully into a piece with two female and one male dancer from 3rd stage. Again, I’m not exactly sure what they were trying to convey. Were they all lovers? Friends? Scorned? Confused? Sad? Mourning what could have been? I’m not sure, but it was beautiful and nearly moved me to tears.

Interval two. I sensed my companion was starting to enjoy it more. I think the interval ice cream helped! For me, the third section was the least successful. This time, the music was performed live by The Ryan O’Reilly band. I was transfixed by the music. I suddenly felt like I was at a gig. I couldn’t take my eyes off them, and, honestly, that was not entirely because Ryan had some of the most beautiful dimples I had ever seen! I LOVED the music, but for me, it made the dancing blur into the background a little. This is a personal feeling, I looked around the auditorium at my fellow audience members, and they seemed transfixed by the dance performance, the closest to a narrative the evening had seen.

Overall? I really enjoyed it. I’m so glad the Tobacco Factory takes risks and puts on performances such as this. I can highly recommend it, both to dance lovers and novices like myself. It took both of us out of our comfort zone, and I think he grudgingly enjoyed it. I loved it.

The show is on for one more night, TOMORROW Saturday 19th at 7:30, so get there if you can.

-Review by Karen Blake

The Time Machine at Brewery Theatre

I went to see this production with my teenage son. It was the first time either of us had been to the Brewery Theatre and we were both very impressed with how such a small theatre created an intimate setting yet was also perfectly equipped to allow us to sit back and enjoy the performance without feeling the spotlight could suddenly shine on us.

We really enjoyed this story-telling performance by Robert Lloyd Parry. Within his first bursting sentence we were transported to the setting of the eccentric time traveller’s garden as he arrives home. Parry’s vocal skills and use of the stage and props immersed us into the character’s adventure and the dimensions, physically and mentally, that time travellers may endure. He creates the eccentricity and intelligence of the Victorian inventor, whilst retelling the fantastical journey of his last few days.

The H G Wells time traveller story, written and published in 1890’s, is popular worldwide, and Robert Lloyd Parry’s entertaining skillful storytelling made this adaptation a very entertaining experience. We would add that the audience were very noticeably quiet and attentive, rarely even a chair squeak, and as such, would suggest that it may not be ideal for children that cannot sit quietly throughout the performance.

The published version of H G Wells, The Time Machine, can be freely downloaded http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/35

The Time Machine is on at Brewery Theatre until 12th July

– Review by Beki, and Sky Avery-Cooke

Avent and Monie at Tobacco Factory Theatre

Avent--Monie_WEB-535x400I took my neighbour to see this show at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol. He had never been to the venue and was quite looking forward to the whole experience. A cheeky pint of local Bath Ale before the show went down very well before we took out seats. The audience was only half full, there was a pleasant pre show buzz to the crowd as we all waited for the show to start.

This performance was a two man pre-Edinburgh Fringe comedy sketch show, kind of a cross between The Fast Show and Morecombe and Wise. The Two main characters played two entertainers doing a show. We got to see the show they were performing, and ‘backstage’ to the show as the relationship between the two characters developed and secrets were learnt about each other. I thought this was a genius idea, as instead of being just a series of un-related comic sketches, we got to identify with the characters behind the characters and the continuity helped thread the show into a powerful structure.

The sketches themselves were wonderfully witty. The two actors took on different characters and situations which were well paced and funny, which is good news if you are watching a comedy show! Our favourite was a bizarre sketch when the donning of a green hat made the wearer turn into a tortoise. Possibly the simplest of visual gags, but one that had the audience bursting with laughter and was very well played out. There were some wonderfully cheesy gags, some clever stuff you (we) didn’t immediately get (I love a bit of delayed laughter as the audience slowly work it out), some library double entendre (about hardbacks, and fingering spines) and some proper silly nonsense. “I quite fancy being a nutter. You get your own room, en suite bathroom, lovely view, although strangely – no where to hang anything.”

Then there was the back stage story of the two actors professional relationship. One had started rehearsing sketches with another actor, and the two bickered like a married couple as one found out the other was ‘cheating’ on him with another actor. This story developed each time the actors came ‘backstage’ to get ready for the next sketch, with a very funny climax to the whole proceedings involving an un-tied shoelace and an apology.

In between all this, they had short comedy sketches on video, with soldiers doing tiger face paints instead of camouflage, gangsters playing pooh sticks while disposing of bodies, and a mix up when someone asks for a tattoo of a cockatoo (say it out loud). The video kept the pace of the show really punchy with mostly ‘one line’ punch lines, while the live sketches facilitated longer jokes with multiple laughter potential (or to put it in layman’s terms, lots of funny bits).

It was a very funny night out. We were lucky enough to chat to one of the actors after the gig, who was really friendly and eager to discuss the ideas and plans for the show at the Comedy Fringe Festival later this year in Edinburgh from the 1st to the 22nd August, but you can catch them before in the Bath Rondo Theatre on the 26th July. www.aventandmonie.com for details.

If you like your comedy to be funny, fast and full of fab fun, then Avent and Monie are the answer. A fresh approach to a classic comedy formula.

 
– Review by Ade from Action Pussycat and desperate to have my own Edinburgh Fringe Show

How Cold are my Toes at Brewery Theatre

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How Cold my Toes performance was a fantastic journey through the seasons. It kept my 3 year old son captivated throughout the entire show. I was impressed at how a performance for young children could also be so enjoyable for the accompanying adults. We both giggled lots at the seasonal antics of the two performers, especially the very messy summer ice cream eating and the rolling around in the autumn leaves. My son was amazed to see the spring flowers shooting up and loved the building of the snowman in winter.

The music was playful and added to the sense of fun that the performers portrayed. Both Joel Daniel and Laura Street danced in perfect time to the music. They used simple props, which never cluttered the stage and allowed for seamless transition into the next season. I would highly recommend this fun show to anyone with a young child.

 

How Cold are my Toes is on at Brewery Theatre until Sunday 6th July

– Review by Emma Warren