by Mike Kenny
Performed by Christine Kempell
There’s a moment in the play where Caitlin asks us just why audiences want to watch others’ pain. And in a month where the world is watching two stars rip each other to bits in public – it’s a great and timeless question.
This piece by Mike Kenny shows us Caitlin’s pain – married to the genius Dylan Thomas, she was a dancer, but if she hadn’t married him, would we ever have heard of her?
Visceral, passionate and raw, the writing opens up old wounds and reveals deep and dreadful love for an unfaithful alcoholic slob.
We’re drawn into their world – the babies and the ghastliness of childbirth, infidelity, violation and violence, including her own attack on Dylan, the stifling little Welsh world she found herself trapped in, the glorious landscape, the mother in law she loathed – and there are moments of laughter, observations on the ridiculous situations she somehow found herself in. This just wasn’t the life she’d thought she’d have, but there’s a sense of inevitability here, the feeling that they’re both trapped and doomed by their mutual fatal-flaw addiction to the booze.
Racketing between loathing and love, indifference and absolute possession, Kempell gives a powerhouse of a performance. Rich-voiced, physical and athletic, she’s absolutely magnificent in Caitlin’s tenderness, eroticism and rage.
Currently in performance at the Rialto for Brighton Fringe and heading to Edinburgh this August
Am I Invisible Yet?
Written and performed by Dunstan Bruce
Directed by Sophie Robinson
Produced by Tom Dussek
Movement coach Jack Kristiansen
Lighting tech Katy Matthews
British band Chumbawamba were for thirty years anti authority, anti fascism, anti authoritarianism, pro rights for all and the class struggle – or, ‘what are you rebelling against?’ ‘what have you got?’
A packed audience of friendly fans greeted a barnstorming new solo show written and performed by band member Dunstan Bruce.
Middle age creeps up and suddenly – there it is. And we have a choice; go gently or go raging. Dunstan’s chosen to rage, rant and roar.
Now for most of us with a pre-digital past, there are boxes of photos, cassettes, maybe the odd VHS.
In future we’ll all be haunted by our billions of digital photos and reels, those ‘ten-years-back’ Facebook surprises already a jolt.
But what if you were in a band? There’s already TV clips, TOTP, chat shows, you in performance, in the papers, in youth. How you looked, how you moved, how you sounded, how you were. Then.
Dunstan’s pursued by the past, memories played out on the old telly screen of the mind; here a back wall screen and projector.
It’s a piece of performance poetry and physical theatre, recited, chanted, repeated, lyrics, slogans, questions and demands, scraps of remembered song.
Often angry and despairing, his clips echoed by glimpses of today’s young female activists, you sense the pride and support for this new generation taking over the rage mantle.
At its best, it’s funniest and most engaging when vulnerability and simplicity take over from the bravado, in the chatty ‘I can’t sing’ spontaneous bits round a guitar folk song.
Standout moments include a physical bit with – a fall? A tantrum? Then ‘Did you see what I did there? I got up!’ had the audience howling.
And some great use of the space, one with a megaphone racing all round the theatre building, downstairs, under the auditorium and back up the other side, emerging panting and triumphant.
From coat to pants the palette’s grey, beige and dull – but there’s a red mini skirted bathing costume and garish suit in the mix, that Am I Invisible Yet? sense of naughty irreverence mixed with the challenge.
A touch of clever lighting closes the show as the spotlight shrinks and focuses down to final moments on his face and a message of hope.
In the end, it feels like a show with two personas. Angry-funny, inyerface-endearing; the punky performance poet and the more mellow, reflective, self mocker, who for me was the most captivating.
There’s more subtlety, nuance and layers to be teased out from the piece, and I do hope it goes on beyond this two night event.
Sussex Playwrights Reviews
Cascade Creative Recovery drama collective
Direction from Speak Up! Act Out!
Original music by The Undergrowth Tea Party
‘A cornucopia of dystopian dysfunction. Sketches and music about the strange times we live in. In the style of Brecht and Weil.’
This performance was devised through a series of workshops over the last six months, and performed by a group of people who are in recovery.
We’re met outside by company members in makeup and masks, in an interactive, knowing fairground style – we all need disinfecting before we go in, so our reality is part of the show.
We’re somewhere around the 16th wave of Covid, in a near future where the strange new world we all had to get used to has become an even stranger New Normal.
It’s the first time I’m at an event in over a year, in a socially distanced audience, and my own apprehensions are mirrored and expanded by the work on stage. It’s all very meta.
A cast of ten perform glimpses of separated families, Draconian laws and the need for human interaction in a sometimes bleakly funny, often despairingly familiar near future, while a three piece live band sing ironic, dark songs in the corner of a cabaret nightclub.
Sometimes slower and quieter than it deserved, the show would benefit from a longer run, so cast and crew who’ve lived their own nightmares, and together are dealing with this one, too, can get into the swing of it, pick up the pace and the punch.
All the best to this charity, Cascade Creative Recovery. Recovery community space and cafe to connect people up with each other, signpost services relevant to maintaining recovery and organise creative projects and events.
More at https://www.facebook.com/CascadeCreativeRecovery
Sussex Playwrights Reviews
Speak Up! Act Out!
Director Angela El-Zeind
Choreography Katie Dale-Everett
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK with one woman diagnosed every ten minutes. And around 350 men a year, too.
Eight out of ten are not warned about the possibility of developing long-term anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
This week, rage about the way gynaecology submits women to extreme pain without anaesthetic has taken centre stage, so this topic feels so much a part of the conversation right now.
This piece of verbatim theatre is based on interviews with survivors, some of whom were with us in the audience tonight.
Three women tell their stories, each dipping into testimonies that plunge us into some dark places, from the in-shower oh-crap moment to glimpses of the realities of the treatments.
We begin at the moment of diagnosis, a professional voice droning on – but it’s overtaken by the thundering heart, the wooshing in the ears, she’s falling, twisting, caught in a tornado.
Yet there’s joy and positivity too, glimpses of new beginnings, relationships strengthening, and the sense of a second chance to seize the day.
And a fun moment – an unexpected, brightly contrasted piece of audience participation that’s very cleverly popped in just where it’s needed.
The show’s performed by an assured trio;
Chess Dillon-Reams’ fluid dancer brings a powerful glow, Aurea Williamson is all restrained grace and compassion and director Angela El-Zeind delivers a performance of poise and authority.
It’s staged very simply, a few seating blocks and spotlights, with slides flitting on and off screen and audio snippets from the interviews, monologues and dance and physical theatre pieces interweaving together.
Like the survivors it celebrates, this compelling, frank and emotionally captivating piece will go on to new directions, telling more stories and spreading the word.
(PS: Do your checks, and go for your scans)