Good Girl by Naomi Sheldon – Trafalgar Studios, London
I didn’t really know what to expect from this play, which I think made it all the better. I happened to be in London on short notice and essentially chose a play based on what time and where it was on, as I had a few other appointments to fit it around. Which seems like the worst reason to see a show ever, but it worked out wonderfully for me because Good Girl is absolutely brilliant.
The show details the life of the titular Good Girl (referred to as GG throughout) as she grows up, navigating her emotions and the expectations of the world around her. I laughed out loud so many times, Sheldon’s writing is incredibly relatable. It’s perfectly evocative of growing up in the 90’s with numerous references that could have been describing me and my childhood friends. The themes are pertinent for any time period and any place though. I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying this show.
Sheldon is alone on a podium throughout and is still consistently riveting to watch. She doesn’t need anything other than her own performing ability to keep us enraptured. While the majority of the piece is spoken with GG’s voice and point of view, Sheldon also brings to life various friends and acquaintances. Each character to clearly defined and recognisable, Sheldon is able to essentially converse with herself and still have it be easy to follow. Cos she’s so bloody good.
I haven’t connected with a show like this in a long time, it really is something special.
Clockwork Canaries by Christopher William Hill – The Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth
Directed by Luke Kernaghan, this new play was a lovely completion of a circle for TRP. Kernaghan was the first resident assistant director for the theatre and has now returned to direct a show in The Drum. During his time at TRP he directed one of Christopher William Hill’s earlier plays with our Young Company. Lots of connections coming together! I really enjoyed seeing the fruits of the theatre’s emphasis on developing talent.
The show was right up my street as well. Dark, unusual and funny, with some stellar puppet work. The play is set in the town of Schwartzgarten, a fictional location seen in William Hill’s novels. On one of the nights that I saw the play there were some young fans of the books in the front row, giggling delightedly at every reference to Schwartzgarten specific products.
The play is ostensibly about a family. Maximillian Dressler (Dominic Marsh) and his daughter Tatiana lead lives surrounded by death, literally, in the form of the pet cemetery attached to the house. Tatiana herself (played with charming girlishness by Charlie Cameron) is obsessed with the subject, imagining her ideal tomb and drawing gravestones to decorate the house. This should set the scene for how odd the Gothic world of the play is. The pair welcome a new cat into their home, the catalyst for even stranger events. The cat, given the fancy moniker of Count Frederick Sebastian, is brought to life by puppeteer Richard Booth and it steals the show in several scenes (as does the puppet dog he also operates, it’s so cute!). The cast is rounded off by Jeremy Ang Jones playing a delivery boy fond of implausible disguises and Chris Staines who plays the flamboyant Mrs Steinhoffelman and several other characters. The staging is incredibly complex involving multiple speedy costume changes and some ingenious set design. It’s such a fun spectacle to watch, bright and full of life despite the dark themes of the story. It’s laugh out loud funny at times and genuinely creepy at others.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. Go see!
PlayLAB – The LAB, Theatre Royal Plymouth
Tiny Details by Jon Nash, Of the Soil by Run Like Stags, Followers by Alexandra Ogando and Snip by Lucy Bell
PlayLAB is a night dedicated to showcasing and developing new work. A festival of short plays all built around the loose theme of speaking freely. Each performance featured a group from Theatre Royal’s Engagement and Learning department: Young Company 14 – 18s for Followers, People’s Company over 25s for Snip, Young Company and People’s Company 18 – 25s for Tiny Details and this year’s LAB company (Run Like Stags) for Of The Soil.
I really enjoyed every piece. The beauty of a night like this is that if something isn’t for you it will quickly be followed by something that might be. Wasn’t an issue here though, they were all enjoyable. Some beautiful music and an intriguing premise from Run Like Stags, some sinister conspiracy theorists from Jon Nash, some laugh out loud moments from Lucy Bell and energetic fun from Alex Ogando. Every play presented interesting ideas. Of course, there were aspects you’d love to know more about and points you’d like to see go even further but that’s the nature of short plays. The acting was of a really high calibre given that most of the performers aren’t professionals. Lots of promise overall, I’m really glad a night like this exists.
Napoleon Disrobed by Told by An Idiot – The Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth
The photograph above should give you an idea of how much I’ve been seeing on this placement. It’s more theatre that I’ve ever been exposed to and I’m loving it. It does however mean that my grand plans to review everything might be a tad ambitious. I’ll still try to write something about each piece but it means my posts will likely be brief/maybe not that well written.
Napoleon Disrobed is a play devised by Told By and Idiot, based on Simon Ley’s novel The Death of Napoleon. It’s a co-production with us, the Arcola Theatre and Told By An Idiot. With the play being a co-production, I was given more access to rehearsals than I’d get with a visiting company. I got to source some prop feather quills that they’re still using in the play. They get used for less than five seconds but I’m still weirdly proud every time I see them onstage. I got to be a tiny part of a show!
I’ve been lucky enough to see the play three times now, in its dress rehearsal, the Plymouth press night and the Arcola’s press night. Each time the play has been different. The company has been working on and developing the piece each night in response to audiences. It was good to begin with but it’s got even better.
The play involves some of the most interesting staging I’ve ever seen, I won’t go in to too much detail as it’s a nice reveal, but it’s very impressive and makes for some demanding physical work for the actors. Paul Hunter and Ayesha Antione give great comedic performances as Napoleon and literally every other character respectively. The play is at times bizarre, it’s not always easy to follow the narrative (that said, this has improved every time I’ve seen it, even minor tweaks to some lines have made it clearer) but it’s so much fun to watch that it doesn’t really matter. It is funny and moving in equal measure.