Wild Card: Livia Rita FUTURA Glitch – Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells Review

Livia Rita – singer, designer, choreographer, film maker and visual artist – is without a doubt the textbook multihyphenate, and rest assured their Wild Card premiere of FUTURA Glitch at the Lilian Baylis Studio adjoining Sadler’s Wells was hyphens abound. Even as I sat eating soup in the café before the show, I was drawn to a small interactive installation ran by their ‘coven’. At various stations I was guided through sound art, homemade scents, and a manifestation ritual involving horseradish, parsley, and cranberry juice. The walls were adorned with images and small eclogues of text relating to different themes.

In spite of this initiation, I had no idea what to expect when the show actually begun. Ostensibly this is part of the idea: according to the Sadler’s Wells website, the appropriately named Wild Card entails ‘a new generation of artists [being[ invited to curate their own night.’ At the very least, I inferred there would be music, dance, and elaborate costumes. As Rita began singing while emerging from a blossoming flower, I thought I knew what I was in for: a highly choreographed and ‘showy’ live performance by a singer with a small ensemble. Rita’s presence on stage (or in this case, in studio) is undeniable, and her voice is categorically good. As are their songs – this was hyper/electropop done well. She wormed her way through the audience and covertly demanded they reformulate themselves as she uncovered new audience-performer paradigms for each segment.

Then the coven came out, bringing Rita’s hyphens with them. Up until this point in the first act, Rita was alone, other than a sole performer who mostly remained stationary. As the performance progressed, we came to know and (maybe) love each member of the coven. There was the ivy-covered moss creature, the shroud in stilts, the pale duo who looked like woodland sprites. And with their introduction, Rita knew to pull away in the interest of the show, and at times, the music gave way to movement: there was now a glimpse of narrative. Individual members even had their own talents which shone, such as the moss creature’s brass solo, and the extended harp solo.

If the first act was the whacky act, the second half was the concerted act. From the get-go, something was different – the narrative choreography was more synchronic, and the music felt like a setlist, like songs rather than an experience. Where the electronic sounds of the first act sometimes felt like a backing track, one of the coven was now a visible DJ in the second. Perhaps to some, this is less of an achievement. I would argue that what the second half achieved was greater than the achievement of the first. While the harp, brass, movement, et. al. in the first act was wonderful, they dragged. While the costume changes of the first act were cool, they occurred in the second with a lesser frequency but a greater impact.

The finale of the second act was truly the highlight, however: the DJ began to play a simple, repetitive, but rhythmically addictive techno beat, and Rita began a dance routine. Then, the coven joined in. Then, a couple of audience members. This continued for between 15 and 20 minutes – take this with a pinch of salt, since time dissolved during this period – with everyone in the audience gradually being drawn into this iterative dance. FUTURA Glitch was intensely at its most organic now, and I think this is what it was trying to achieve throughout: a magical space at the crossroads between technology and nature.

At one of the installations before the show, I was told that FUTURA Glitch was ‘kind of’ about the earth, and truthfully, some parts of the show were lost in translation and in the hyphens. I never figured out what the sole performer who remained stationary was doing. Rita should chase the flame which kindled towards the end of the second act. The symbiosis peaked as we were escorted out – artist applauded audience, and audience applauded artist. What a feeling.

You can watch the trailer here:  www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/wild-card-livia-rita-futura-glitch/

For upcoming shows / Livia Rita’s 2022 tour: liviarita.com/upcomingshows

Wild Card Livia Rita Futura Glitch / Photography by Camilla Greenwell

Cian Kinsella is a Classics teacher and part-time pub quizmaster living in London who is primarily interested in music but is also interested in theatre, literature, and visual arts. He is particularly intrigued by the relationship between art, criticism, and the capital forces always at play. Furthermore, he believes that subjectivity – which is ultimately at the heart of all artistic and cultural criticism – should not be concealed, but probed and perhaps even celebrated. Who decides what we like? How do they construct widely held beliefs about what is good? These are two of the questions Cian looks to address.

Our Time On Earth Exhibition – Barbican Review

Exploring radical ideas around the climate crisis, Barbican’s latest immersive exhibition, Our Time On Earth transforms their Curve gallery. 

Our Time On Earth is a meditative experience. In the first space, visitors are encouraged to pause and listen to the voice playing overhead, “your breath comes from sea creatures and trees”, and “just one breath shared by all living things”. This novel way to begin viewing an exhibition sets the tone – not dissimilar to adjusting your breathing and setting your intention at the start of a yoga class. 

The exhibition features work from 18 artists including Marshmallow Lazor Feast, SUPERFLUX and Silent Studio. Many of the works presented explore the role of technology in connecting with nature and our approach to the climate crisis. Consequently, Our Time On Earth is quite tech-heavy; animation, video, and interactive screens. However, this focus prompts interesting questions, which are explored throughout the show; can we live sustainably and continue to focus on the digital? Is it possible to truly connect with nature digitally? …Is this exhibition environmentally friendly?

Marshmallow Lazor Feast’s Sanctuary of the Unseen Forest explores this idea further, presenting a viewer-engulfing digital animation of the intricate nerve network of a tree and its roots. Created in collaboration with Bio-Leadership Project founder Andres Roberts, the piece demonstrates the tree’s role in connecting the soil and the sky, and ultimately, creating the air we breathe. The gentle ebb and flow of the video are equally part fascinating and part mesmerising. 

In the next space along we see SUPERFLUX’s Refuge for Resistance, a dining table installation ready to host a multi-species dinner party. The work encourages the viewer to consider their place in a natural world where all living beings are considered equal. In contrast, positioned alongside Refuge for Resistance is a digital image of a city, devoid of human activity and reclaimed by nature; animals wander, vines grow freely, and tower blocks crumble. It’s peaceful but unnerving – reminiscent of a shot from The Last Of Us. This dystopian feeling is definitely not recurrent in Our Time On Earth, instead, viewers are prompted to slow down, consider and reflect on our relationship with nature.

A little deeper in the exhibition there is a focus on textile production. We’re shown examples of innovative sustainable materials currently being tested, developed and even sold. In one of the glass cabinets we see a dress with a Zara label, raising perhaps one of the most fundamental questions of the climate crisis – can we live sustainably whilst still being ruled by capitalism? 

Our Time On Earth is pragmatic, inspiring…maybe even, hopeful. In the midst of the ever-worsening climate crisis, it’s great to see the power of collective creativity and its application to envisioning a better future for Earth.

Our Time on Earth runs from 5 May – 29 August 2022. Find out more and book tickets here.

“Sanctuary of the Unseen Forest” by Marshmallow Lazor Feast photographed by Amy Melling (see biog below)

Reviewed by Amy Melling – Amy is a Curator and Creative Producer whose practice is centred around community-led arts projects. Her current research is focused on curatorial methods for exhibiting artworks outside. Amy has a keen interest in the arts and recently completed an MA in Curating and Collections at Chelsea College of Arts, UAL.

 

Slow Dance <3 #9: Park Motive, Pink Eye Club, Bubble People – The Windmill, Brixton Review

Park Motive, the musical moniker of home producer Sam Herschmann, has been performing and releasing music for approximately seven years or so now.  Their first release, ‘No Slip’, was released on the Slow Dance ’16 EP alongside tracks by Glows and Asha Lorenz, the vocalist of Sorry, who are currently touring the States. In between bands at Brixton’s Windmill, Sam tells me that Park Motive’s first ever gig – also Sorry’s first gig – was at the embryonic form of what became Slow Dance: a boat party in Royal Victoria. Supposedly it was a legendary night that is still spoken of by the happy few who attended.

In the time that has elapsed since then, Park Motive has been gestating and confidently realising itself, while many of their peers have prematurely entered the ring, not yet fully formed. Herschmann has spent this time succinctly incorporating influences ranging from house and techno to folk and Brazilian pop, and has smithed his own introverted interpretation of dance music. Meanwhile, the live iteration of the act has consisted of the same six members for the best part of four years. The culmination of this is the exemplary sophomore single ‘Undark’, released at the end of April alongside a music video (see below) directed by Cuan Roche.

The current series of Slow Dance’s monthly residency at the Windmill is called ‘Slow Dance <3 [i.e. ‘loves’]’, and the idea is to showcase smaller acts that the Slow Dance team is big on, and who may not get much exposure otherwise. For the ninth night of this series, they elected to host a special electronic and dance edition. And like most electronic events on a Wednesday evening, it was not that busy. However, it was great – the dual threads running through the evening were experimentation and fun.

Opener Bubble People is a lone performer with a table of modular synths and equipment. The sound was eclectic, nodding to current trends in hyperpop without losing its edge. Towards the end of the setlist, it leapt into the sphere of old school jungle, replete with lo-fi synths and intricate drum breaks. Following this was Pink Eye Club, which sounded like someone who had never been to a weekday student club night before had been told about one between 2003 and 2008 and was then instructed to recreate it. The shoeless man on stage was accompanied by a laptop playing instrumentals that were somewhere at the nexus between house, trance, and football anthems in the vein of Ant & Dec’s ‘We’re on the Ball’ and ‘Three Lions’. While the irreverent lyrics occasionally felt unconsidered, they didn’t detract too much from the music. I’d like to think that in an alternative universe, Mike Skinner moved to Wigan, and The Streets sounded something a little like this.

Headlining was a relatively new formation of the Park Motive live band. In response to the struggle of consistently finding the time for six full-time professionals to perform, a diet line-up of Herschmann and drummer, Ali Horler, has been assembled parallel. Just as with soft drinks, though, the slimmed down product is not objectively worse, but certainly different. Herschmann balances the organic with the electronic; mechanical rhythms with unabashed feeling. The two-man version of Park Motive leaned harder into the glitchy and weird side of the music, but perhaps at the cost of the hypnotic synchronism of the full line-up. Despite relying more on electronics, though, the set felt primal and stripped back to its essential components. At any rate, after years of working in one way, Park Motive is exploring new avenues into their sound. Will this feed back into the sound of their new music? Only time will tell. The forthcoming ‘Incident’, which will feature on Park Motive’s debut EP, felt particularly well-executed and lent itself to the marriage of electronic textures with airy live drums.

Park Motive image by Photographer Genoveva Arteaga

Cian Kinsella is a Classics teacher and part-time pub quizmaster living in London who is primarily interested in music but is also interested in theatre, literature, and visual arts. He is particularly intrigued by the relationship between art, criticism, and the capital forces always at play. Furthermore, he believes that subjectivity – which is ultimately at the heart of all artistic and cultural criticism – should not be concealed, but probed and perhaps even celebrated. Who decides what we like? How do they construct widely held beliefs about what is good? These are two of the questions Cian looks to address.

 

Juniper and Jules at the Soho Theatre: A Dynamic but Corny Exploration of Queer Love

When I saw the Soho Theatre was staging a piece of new writing about queer love, I jumped at the chance to attend. My expectations going in were a little guarded; I’m a keen advocate of promoting up-and-coming theatre, but the calibre of writing can differ wildly. That said, the show matched the tone of its blurb: it was fun, energetic, at moments tender, and within the burgeoning canon of queer writing, unfortunately quite clichèd.

The premise is this: Juniper is an out-and-proud lesbian, with a reputation for turning the pretty heads of bicurious women. Meanwhile, Jules has never been with a girl before. They meet at a club and fall madly in love. At the centre of the piece is the question of monogamy: Juniper, who sources comfort in order and routine, isn’t naturally drawn to the unpredictability of opening up her relationship. Jules, the more outgoing and sparky of the two, doesn’t want to limit herself. When the couple starts experimenting with non-monogamy, they are forced to confront the issues in their relationship both inside and outside the bedroom.

The performance of a play about lesbian desire at an established venue in Soho is a phenomenon belonging very much to the contemporary moment. The directorial vision of Bethany Pitts echoed the modernity of the production by making ample use of imaginative physical theatre and non-traditional staging. The audience sat on chairs on both sides of the auditorium, with Juniper (Stella Taylor) and Jules (Gabriella Schmidt) constantly changing orientation so to engage all. The only stage-piece was an oval platform, which often represented the couple’s shared bed. When physically separated and forced to communicate over text, Juniper and Jules stand at opposite ends of the stage, each facing a different part of the audience, so as to enact their distance.

Much of the play illustrates the physical interactions of the two young lovers, with copious use of sexual imagery. The effect was often comedic, but the staging was often so graphic that it verged on gratuitous. Taylor and Schmidt had great chemistry, but I do wonder if we needed to see quite so much. It felt like Pitts was making a spectacle of two women being intimate, so unabashed was the choreography. This felt like a politicised choice, inviting shock for the apparent radicality of watching lesbians have sex on stage. Although the choreography was realistic and avoided the sorts of representation aimed at the male gaze, I still found that amidst a mixed-gender audience the viewing experience was uncomfortable.

Thankfully, the play also captured the gentle affection shared by the couple, as well as the inevitable bickering and eruptions of frustration that come with the territory of living with your partner. What undermined my enjoyment of these scenes is that a lot of the dialogue was cringe-worthy. In fact, it smelled suspiciously of a middle-aged playwright attempting to invoke the cadences of dating in your twenties. Taylor dealt with the tonal woodenness of the script better than Schmidt, whose intonation was irritatingly repetitive. Nevertheless, the physical chemistry of the two actors carried the show forward, even when the writing let them down.

Beyond my issues with the script and staging, I found the central premise of ‘Juniper and Jules’ somewhat problematic. I conjecture that the play relied far too much on the theme of lesbian love for commercial success as its advertising was heavily reliant on queerness. Honestly, I’m not convinced that it really is all that new and radical for an edgy theatre in liberal London to put on a show about two white lesbians, with no apparent money concerns or class conflict. Juniper does briefly allude to past experiences of homophobic violence, at which Jules is shocked and upset. No real-life woman in a queer relationship is shocked to hear those sorts of stories. Juniper and Jules seem to have no awareness of their privilege: their main problem is whether their relationship can sustain the sexual inclusion of others, which is a terribly white and middle-class problem to have.

Perhaps to a more mainstream audience less sensitive to the emerging clichés that dominate representations of queerness, such issues would be less offensive. Perhaps, also, the play simply doesn’t aim to navigate intersectional oppressions, simply finding joy in one instance of lesbian love. To the play’s credit, it was very successful in invoking delight, even if it was at the expense of realism. Despite its reliance on tropes in need of further investigation, ‘Juniper and Jules’ was an undeniably exciting watch.

Juniper and Jules was on at the Soho Theatre from 3 May – 14 May 2022. You can visit the theatre’s website here to see what’s on next: https://sohotheatre.com

Jules and Juniper production image by Photographer Ali Wright.

Sophia Sheera is a writer interested in migration, cultural citizenship, displacement and queerness with a focus on Central Asia and Northern India. Sophia is inspired by talking to the people whose stories are sidetracked by sensationalist headlines, and as such aspires to share those counter-narratives through political journalism.

If. Destroyed. Still. True. – The Hope Theatre Review

If. Destroyed. Still. True. tells the epic story of modern everyday lives and asks what happens when the place you were born can no longer be called home. James (Theo Ancient) is home from University with his new girlfriend Charlotte (Whitney Kehinde) and they can’t wait to reunite with John (Jack Condon), James’ best friend. But things have changed since they last met and none of them know yet how significant this day will be for the rest of their lives.

The play is intended to spring an emotional response to the topic of migration in general and makes the point that it is very much a current issue. It’s about displacement, people moving from one place to another; but also about stagnation, which is convincingly illustrated by the character of John, whose words and actions often don’t fit his thoughts and feelings.

Set atop an Essex coastline cliff, this is a three-part play that covers three visits James makes back home to Essex over the course of eight years.  The first time shows him bringing his new girlfriend Charlotte- an utterly classist, metropolitan elitist, and pretentious young black girl to meet his family. She is introduced to his best mate John- a full-blown Essex boy who likes to feed stray cats behind Morrisons and has adopted a hedgehog. The second visit is after Charlotte and James are married, where they check in on John, after a drink driving accident, which left him limping. The third and last visit is with a heavily pregnant Charlotte where James tries to come to terms with what has happened to John. This is for the audience to discover as the story draws to a close.

With the audience on three sides of a runway-style stage (designed by Anna Kelsey), there’s a closeness and intimacy that is impossible to escape from. The play covers a spectrum of difficult topics like mental health and social alienation that lend themselves well to cliché dialogues that dominate the script. James addresses John in the first act, inviting him to walk out of the “shit hole” he’s trapped in just as he has done. As if John could.

After this, John and Charlotte no longer speak. This means that Kehinde is absent from part two where we see the boys’ struggle to reconcile with one another, and the difficulties they face trying to understand who they were once, and to accept who they are now.

As life pulls childhood best mates apart, we bear witness to a dramatic ending and we realize what we stand to lose when we cannot truly communicate. Finding peace and quiet sometimes is farfetched. Jack Condon gives an altogether heartfelt and thoughtful performance as John. We are inclined to empathize with him as he is the character that faces challenges both visible and invisible. His presence is engrossing as he bludgeons his way through nuances of chronic vulnerability and with the false confidence of a man who is fundamentally unsure and in need of help. Theon Ancient portrays a more materially successful but similarly unsure James.  His character lacks depth and is devoid of any light or shade, partly due to the constraints of the cliché-ridden dialogues. They make a sad pair that simultaneously connect us to people who may not be on the same path.

The character of Charlotte gets a chance to redeem herself in the latter half of the performance. Now pregnant, we see a rich and tender woman who has been woven into the two men’s unhealthy web. It’s a renewed portrayal of Charlotte charged with stereotyped feminity. Had she tried harder in having a relationship with her husband’s best friend and soulmate, could things between John and James, as well as between her and James gone differently?

As we come to know the characters in different stages of their lives, we see that underneath the mask and layers there’s a fundamental question of what is left when apologies, justifications, goodwill, reasoning, courtesy and forbearance wear thin.

Jack Condon, Whitney Kehinde, Theo Ancient / Photography by Alex Brenner, Jawbones Theatre – If Destroyed Still True at Hope Theatre

Check out behind the scenes footage of the play here – www.thehopetheatre.com

Reviewed by Rachele Nizi- After completing her MA in Reception of the Classical World at UCL, Rachele joined Abundant Art as a creative writer. Her British and Italian origins have inspired her to want to study Art History and European Literature, with an interest in the afterlife of antiquity in the Western tradition.

 

 

 

 

La Bohème – King’s Head Theatre Review

Tradition and modernity are two concepts that have always been intertwined in the arts. Many artists through the ages have struggled with their relationship with new and old, with canon and creativity. Mark Ravenhill’s reinvention of Puccini’s “La Bohème” plays with this notion by transposing a 19th Century Italian Opera piece to a much more modern stage, for the much more modern small audience of social drinkers of the King’s Head Pub. Queerness, dating apps and modernised dialogue brilliantly mix with the much more atemporal themes of tormented love, loneliness and the difficulties of young adult life.

The story starts with the introduction of the writer Robin (Daniel Koek), who is stuck writing cheap erotica while his sculptor friend Marcus (Matt Kellett) complains about not being able to sell any of his ridiculously ugly artworks. The two friends are heading to a Christmas Eve pub party, but Robin stays behind to meet his Grindr hookup “Mimi”, aka Lucas (Philip Lee). Their palpable awkwardness turns into sparkling chemistry as they duet a reprise of “Che gelida manina” (”What a cold little hand”), and Robin invites Mimi to the pub. At the party, we are introduced to Marcus’s flamboyant ex Marissa (Grace Nyandoro), and similarly to Mimi and Robin, the two ex-lovers get back together by the end of the song. But as foreshadowed by the many flashing scenes where we randomly see Mimi in a hospital surrounded by nurses, tragedy will soon strike the group of friends. The financial struggles, Marissa’s cheating, Mimi’s HIV and alcoholism and Robin’s overprotectiveness all collide in a dramatic turmoil, and yet love and relationships always come out triumphant.

If I were to define the production in a few keywords, it would be as a game of contrasts. Tragedy is paired with comedy; the epic flirts with the mundane; past mixes with present; lyricism encounters vulgarity and the grandiosity of Opera is transposed to the more intimate space of a small pub theatre. Overall, everything was married together with brio, as weird as it may be at first to hear an opera singer vocalise about how they almost “swiped left” on their Grindr match.

The set and costume design were a curious aspect of the story: the setting was a hospital ward and all the characters except Mimi were dressed as nurses, although almost none of the scenes are set in a hospital and the characters aren’t nurses. This stylistic choice was a bit confusing plot-wise, but it cleverly foreshadows the story’s tragic finale in a hospital, which the play hints at multiple times. The public starts to get the uneasy feeling that it will probably not end well for their protagonists. The central aspect of the performance, however, was the vocal prowesses of the actors. The score (David Eaton) is a simplified piano version of Puccini’s original orchestra and chorus, which creates a purer version of the harmony, leaving space for the vocal performances to shine. Philip Lee beautifully expressed the pathetic and tragedy of his character, and his singing performance incorporated all of Mimi’s vulnerability while still delivering some impressively strong notes. Grace Nyandoro’s character was truly a breath of fresh air, both due to her dynamic, more cheerful singing and the fact that she was the only female soprano. Matt Kellet was also given a more lighthearted role and delivered comedy with perfect rhythm and vocal range. Daniel Koek filled the shoes of the main character perfectly, and the fervour and technicality of his performance carried most of the emotional weight of the scenes.

Overall, the play definitely stands out from the many other representations of “La Bohème”. It manages to transpose a story that has still much to communicate to modern audiences and “dust it off” in order to make it more accessible, relatable and inclusive. Tickets are available at https://kingsheadtheatre.com/whats-on/la-bohme.

Photo / Brittain Photography

Reviewed by Céline Galletti- Celine is a volunteer writer for Abundant Art. Originally from France and Italy, she follows her passion for writing and art by studying Comparative Literature at UCL, London. As an international student living in London, she is determined to fully experience and understand the city’s vibrant arts scene, and be a part of its creative storm.

The Misfortune of the English – Orange Tree Theatre Review

As suggested by the title “The Misfortune of the English” written by Pamela Carter is a true story of misfortune, unfortunate tragedy and catastrophic disaster. In 1936, 27 English schoolboys embarked on a school trip through the Black Forest in prewar Nazi Germany led by their teacher Mr Keast. The story is told through the eyes of three young boys,  Lyons (played by Matthew Tennyson), Eaton (played by Vinnie Heaven)  and Harrison (played by Hubert Burton); they begin the journey full of the youthfulness, mischief and naivety typical of teenage boys. However, as the boys trudge through the black forest, the winds become stronger and the group becomes engulfed by the icy cold – warned by German locals that the path they walked upon was too dangerous and they should turn back, Mr Keasts ignores these warnings. Blinded by stubborn patriotism and ideas of masculinity, Mr Keasts is determined to continue along this path with the naive boys who follow him eagerly, guiding them upon the mulish premise that the supremacy of the English means they are powerful enough able to push through even the most deadly situation. However, these foolish notions of English exceptionalism are not enough to prevent the death and catastrophe that lies ahead.

The first half of the play is full of the vibrant, and playful energies of our three protagonists, fooling around and joking with one another, and proudly expressing their excitement to be representing their school and their country in the “foreign air” of Germany. By the second half of the play, this energy begins to fade from innocent and playful and turns to grave and solemn, at one point the boys sing “I’ll Stand by You” in an attempt to keep up spirits. However, pride, passion and patriotism are not enough to push through such a situation.   Pamela Carter makes evident the political connotations of the play, through the snide remarks towards Lyons, who is Jewish,  the passionate nature of the boys towards their school and country and the English exceptionalism that Mr Keats uses to encourage his boys. On the surface, the story seems to be merely about young innocent boys who looked up to a foolish and irresponsible teacher who led them towards their deaths, but more than that it is a story about imperialism and the faults of arrogant patriotism.

The set, score lighting for the play remains rather simple. Most of the play takes place on the plain stage, with the lighting dimming during the intervals where tourist information about the Black Forest plays. The focus is mainly on the performance and personalities of the three boys and how they develop throughout the events.

Pamela Carter was inspired to write the play through a Guardian article about the research of  Bernd Hainmuller, a historian who has written about the event. Carter has managed to create a play that greatly showcases the political implications of the event as well as the unfortunate and avoidable nature of the tragedy.

The Misfortune of the English is playing at Orange Tree Theatre until May 28. Tickets are available here: https://orangetreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/the-misfortune-of-the-english/

Photo by Ellie Kurttz

Reviewed by Lian Lakhope. Lian is a MA Global Media and Communications student at SOAS and a volunteer writer for Abundant Art. Lian has written for a number of different publications, mostly about music, culture and film and she is enthusiastic about expressing her passion for creating art and media.

My Two Voices – The ICA Review

‘My Two Voices’ is a documentary film reflecting on identity fluidity. It focuses on three Latin American women, Ana, Claudia and Marinella who share their intimate experiences of moving to Canada. When exploring the deeper reason for migration, the script focuses on their daily domestic lives, forming a fragmented picture of their exterior and interior lives.

Even though the three women are drawn from different backgrounds they have much in common. All three emphasise recurring elements of violence, belonging, motherhood and reconciliation in their lives. Filmmaker Lina Rodriguez named the film ‘My Two Voices’ because she highlights the links between identity and language in the narrative. The two voices in the title refer to their Spanish mother tongue and the newly adapted English language they learned in Canada. As it progresses, ‘My Two Voices’ reveals more of the women’s lives and personalities, gradually forming intimate family portraits in the closing moments.

The film combines carefully composed close-ups of hands and faces alongside contemplative imagery of private and public spaces. These take us deeper into the story with layers of subtle angles instead of merely presenting a linear perspective. With these detailed shots, we get the finer nuances of the actors’ facial expressions. This complements the subtle layers that Rodriguez conveys to her audience through ‘My Two Voices’. This prompts the audience into their own interpretation of the storyline.

The film does not express sympathy for the protagonists’ experiences to a great extent.  Rodriguez plays with the angles of the camera to narrate a calm story. However, behind the calm, the unsettled experiences of the protagonists can be felt. The women are tenacious and that filters through the projected calm.

Rodriguez is a Colombian-Canadian filmmaker and has directed six short films and three features, which have been showcased in festivals and cultural venues including the Berlin International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival and the New York Film Festival. Rodriguez fully and deeply tells the story of complex identity crisis and feminist issues in a brilliant cinematic language and is undoubtedly worthy of praise. However lengthy dialogues interspersed with voiceovers slow down the film. A special mention goes to the film’s critical thinking and thoughtful visual arts and that is the greatest takeaway from the film.

For more information and to watch the trailer of ‘My Two Voices’ click here: www.ica.art/films/my-two-voices

Reviewed by Jiajing Yang. Yang is a MA Documentary-Fiction student at UCL and a volunteer writer for Abundant Art. Yang has written several different articles on the WeChat platform and Zhihu website, mostly about film and literature, and she has published a romantic novel based on ancient China. 

 

 

 

Orlando: A Beguiling Theatrical Adaptation, Jermyn Street Theatre-Review

Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando is joyfully brought to life under the creative direction of Stella Powell-Jones at the Jermyn Street Theatre. Woolf’s lyricism is preserved through the sprightly dialogue of the chorus, whilst Taylor McClaine’s Orlando is gallant and charming. The chorus deftly switches roles and infuses life into small props cleverly hidden in costumes or hung on the stage wall. The actors moved with synchronicity and speed, making for a spell-bound audience.

The play began as does Woolf’s original text: with a sixteen-year-old Orlando in a noble duel with an imaginary foe. The first half of the show chronicles Orlando’s ascent to court under the adoration of the Queen; his unrealized poetic ambitions; his love for, and betrayal by Sasha. Tigger Blaize is a gloriously crusty Elizabeth I, whilst Skye Hallam’s Sasha is pantomimically conniving. Rushed off to Constantinople to escape the affections of a Romanian nobleman, Orlando wakes up one day transformed into a woman; just as we are to see the lady herself, as of yet concealed in shadow by a sheet-turned-curtain, the lights dim for the interval. Orlando’s sex change is the central conceit of Woolf’s novel; the timing of the interval neatly captures the immensity of Orlando’s transformation. When the second half of the play begins, our protagonist’s metamorphosis is complete, and the cast’s assumption of female pronouns as they guide Orlando’s story is seamless.

The second half lagged a little where the first brilliantly kept its momentum. Here, the plot skipped over various parts of Woolf’s novel: this Orlando returns quite simply to British high society, without her further adventures chronicled in the original. Orlando’s marriage to Stanton Wright’s deliciously effeminate Marmaduke also feels somewhat rushed in comparison with the attention lavished upon the earlier affair with Sasha. McClaine’s Lady Orlando doesn’t quite conjure the same affection as does the boyish charm of Orlando the nobleman. It would have added to the play if McClaine had done more with the female Orlando; as it was, she stood a little insipid in comparison to her former brilliance.

Although Orlando is the hero(ine) of the play, the chorus deserves huge credit. Rosalind Lailey, Stanton Wright and Tigger Blaize jumped between characters and speakers with infectious energy. Their performances were much more varied than McClaine’s, which speaks mostly to the difference between the chorus and protagonist. However, at times it was obvious that McClaine is a less experienced actor; indeed, the play marks their professional debut. That said, McClaine brought a youthfulness and charm to Orlando quite true to Woolf’s original. The casting of a young, non-binary actor at the beginning of their career very much fits the role: no doubt, Taylor McClaine is destined for great things.

The beauty of this production lies for me, in the vivacity of the actors’ performances, aided by dialogue that was lyrical without being pretentious, comedic, if at times overly camp. The Jermyn Street Theatre made for an intimate viewing experience, although I found that the actors might have enjoyed a bigger stage. Ruhl’s adaptation foregoes some of the more serious tenors of Woolf’s novel, prizing the theatrical over the reflective; but under the guidance of Powell-Jones, tonight’s performance of Orlando made for a mesmerising watch.

Orlando is on at the Jermyn Street Theatre in Soho from 28 April – 28 May 2022. Ticket info here: www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk 

Rosalind Lailey, Taylor McClaine & Stanton Wright in Orlando at Jermyn Street Theatre – photography by Steve Gregson.

Sophia Sheera is a writer interested in migration, cultural citizenship, displacement and queerness with a focus on Central Asia and Northern India. Sophia is inspired by talking to the people whose stories are sidetracked by sensationalist headlines, and as such aspire to share those counter-narratives through political journalism.

Marcos Morau and La Veronal Present: Pasionaria – Sadler’s Wells Theatre Review

The intense performance of Pasionaria at Sadler’s Wells Theatre explores the future of our world as we continue into an age of reliance on technology. It questions the state of emotional detachment that humanity is inevitably moving towards. Pasionaria poses the question: are we losing our morals, individualism and passion?

As the performance begins I notice that it is difficult to see the details of the performers, almost as if looking into an old fuzzy TV screen. The stage is framed by a white neon light and the set is composed of a monotonously off-white room with a large staircase wrapping around and up through the stage. Dancers erupt into violent jerking, robotic movements as if they are run-down animatronics. The static and unnatural movements of the dancers represent the robots that we are becoming as technology engulfs everything around us. Then the screen lifts. All of the sudden the dancers’ faces are clear and I feel a shift of mood in the production. This possibly represents a lifting of a veil of ignorance or the audience has been sucked into Morau’s world and there is no longer a divide between his dystopia and our reality. Either way, the effect is impactful and adds an unexpected layer, figuratively and literally, to the performance. Accompanied by an eerie soundtrack of antique recorded voices, music and techno-esque soundscapes it is slightly uncomfortable to watch but the audience is intrigued. Reminiscent of The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror the creepiness of it all conveys a message about our society and the dark path we are going towards.

Throughout the production the unusual use of lighting adds interest to an otherwise minimalist set design. Dancers utilizing flashlights creates unusual spotlights and produces new textures throughout the stage. The effects of the window with the starscape and moon are particularly eye-catching and are an effective aid to the storytelling as it did get slightly confusing with all of the intensity on stage.

Pasionaria explores unsettling themes. It highlights the helplessness that we all feel knowing the world could be spiraling out of control. We are defenseless against the power of technology. Although the production tackles dark, anxiety-inducing subjects, it has an aesthetically pleasing, strangely calming visual identity. This dichotomy further accentuates the absurdity of the world we live in. Marcos Morau and La Veronal communicated one message very clearly: modernity has failed us.

Pasionaria played at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in Angel on May 3rd and 4th. For more info or to watch the trailer click here: www.sadlerswells.com 

Pasionaria / Photography by Alex Font

Reviewed by Mia Goodman – Mia is currently finishing up her Art Direction degree at the University of the Arts London. Coming from an Italian-American background and living in both countries allowed her to explore her interests in traveling, cooking and the arts. Her passion for sustainability has led her to explore the intersectionality between the environment and creative industries.