Sunday, 13 January 2019

REVIEW: Propel - HOME, Manchester.


The inspirational, Mighty Heart Theatre were the curators of tonight's, Propel. It was a preliminary showcase of new works in progress from four theatre companies. First of all, what a fantastic opportunity for up and coming companies to springboard into the arts industry. Mighty Heart aim to challenge the status quo and make theatre which has an ability to affect and educate audiences, at the same time they also help other young artists whenever they can - just wonderful. This evening was designed to get instant feedback and thoughts on the works presented to us. I hope my comments assist with this as well.

First out tonight was Jennifer Jackson with her autobiographical piece of Physical Theatre, WRESTLELADSWRESTLE. As she repeatedly said: she was the under 50kg AJA British Judo Champion. Her mother sent her to judo when she was younger, in addition she somewhat remembers queuing up at a shop called CNA and witnessing an act of verbal racism aimed at her mother. The piece was an eclectic fusion of judo, contemporary dance, folk dance, self-defence, and entertainment wrestling - movement is a definite calling card for this artist. The personal was made political here, delving into people's fears of the unknown or the "other". Any emotional pain was made visible and physical in this performance. There was interesting audience participation ideas too. It was full of energy and passion - present even in her eyes.

Next, 'Persephone' by Created A Monster Theatre. It was a solo, experimental performance combining physical storytelling techniques and text inspired by Ovid's Metamorphosis. Inspiration can come from anywhere when it comes to devising, and I was intrigued to read that this show grew out of the performer's (Briony) experience of epilepsy as a child. This childhood experience moulded together with the Greek myth of Persephone resulted in what was a visually stunning piece of theatre - even in it's simplicity. Persephone was a Goddess of the Harvest and Destruction, raped and claimed by Hades, God of the Underworld. It was an intense, disturbing, but beautiful performance. Every time Briony moved in the spotlight covered with talcum powder, it looked like smoke coming off her. Mesmerising. The piece went into dark but important places when exploring sexual assault through nuanced and powerful choreography. The atmospheric music and sound effects complimented the show really well. There was a profound silence when she first walked on stage. You really got a sense of just how powerless she felt despite being in her position as a Goddess. Finally, the cutting of the pomegranate was gorgeously symbolic.

After an interval, Natalie Wardle performed 'Control Pant Symphony' (yes, you read that correctly), a Live Art piece examining how women constrict their bodies to fit in with society's ideal body type. It was cleverly comedic and serious all at once. She interacted with a washing line of control pants in time with Johann Strauss II's The Blue Danube Waltz. It has to be seen to be believed and whenever I hear that waltz, I most probably will think of this performance now. Wardle's frustration with society's ideals was visible and so was her body in an empowering performance about accepting and loving who you are and your own body.

Last but not least, 'Talk To Yourself' by YEAP Theatre Company. One of their influences is the amazing RashDash Theatre Company. Julia Blackwell was the actress; Ellie Boney, passionately played a cello; and Catherine Jack was the painter. The performance was a monologue based on true stories about pregnancy experiences and personal choices. One topic connects all three expressive performers: abortion in (what feels like) a futuristic, dystopian world. The story dissected both sides of the abortion debate: Pro-life and Pro-choice. A computerised entity conducts an interview with a pregnant woman wanting to make an important choice. Immediately, there was this feeling of human beings been treated like a chunk of data, or a statistic, or a case study. It appeared to be about this idea of information overload, when the woman was already feeling overwhelmed herself. At the moment, it just feels like the performers are separated in their own spotlights, I think the company need to find ways to integrate with each other more, going forward. 'Talk To Yourself' was a politically-charged, informative, and timely piece of theatre - I cannot wait to see how it develops.

Overall: an exciting and celebratory night watching the future artists of contemporary theatre. If you're a drama student, go and see this event. If you're a lover of convention-breaking theatre, go and see this event. Well done to everyone involved!

Reviewer - Sam Lowe
on - 12/01/2019

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