On the Rocks Theatre Festival Review: Everyman

Catriona Scott reviews ‘Everyman’ produced by the JOOT Theatre Company, which went up as a part of the On the Rocks Festival.  10854810_1073883329304790_4803950363847586579_oBilled by the JOOT Theatre Company as a popular medieval morality play re-imagined for the modern world ‘by setting it on the context of a dream,’ Everyman certainly seemed an unusual and innovative piece. As a Joint Honours Medieval History & English student, this looked to be right up my street, and, although I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, I was definitely excited to be introduced, even in a re-imagined form, to medieval theatre. Everyman is an allegorical play that explores Christian salvation and how to attain it. Everyman (Hollie Whitfield), the character who represents mankind, is confronted by Death and, in the knowledge that God will judge him on the basis of his good and evil deeds, hopes to convince his various companions to join him in his final few days of life, in the hope of improving his account and ascending to Heaven. Unable to persuade any of the others, Fellowship or Knowledge, [material] Goods or Strength to accompany him to the grave, at the play’s close Everyman comes to the realisation that he is essentially alone, and worth nothing without his Good Deeds (Claire Merten).The production began with quiet, stark simplicity, in contrast to the complicated theological journey the play embarks on. Meirion Jordan stood alone in a spotlight and played an eldritch tune on the fiddle and as his music faded away the Prologue began (spoken by the Messenger, Ian Low) and the play too, in earnest. Jordan and Low remained at the back of the stage throughout; Jordan playing a drum almost continually and contributing to the feeling of impending doom as Everyman’s end drew closer, while Low moved both props and set, including the hands of a large clock, which was at the centre of the sparsely lit stage, showing the passage of time both in the world of the play, and in our own, even more clearly.This same sparseness cannot be said of the costumes, which were varied throughout with hints of the nineteenth century or, in some cases, almost futuristic. The kimono Everyman wore on top of white, glittery trousers was disconcerting for a good portion of the play as the items were jarring, but when the black kimono was replaced with the white penitential gown in a later scene, the reason for this disparity became clear. One other design of note, for good reason, was that of Death (Kenneth Spence), dressed as a miner, helmet and all; for one who dwells underground, this was a fantastic concept, all credit to the set and costume designer, Jo George. 11001573_965254220151867_4202180374094269222_o The portrayals of such a wide variety of characters as the allegorical Kindred, Confession and Beauty, as just three examples from the eighteen strong cast, were mostly excellent. Kindred and Cousin (Elizabeth Rogers and Mayalani Moes) provided an entertaining back and forth as a Tweedledee and Tweedledum-esque pair, physically bound together, and Claire Merten was the picture of innocence and helplessness as the initially frail Good Deeds. Hollie Whitfield as Everyman carried the production, brilliantly embodying her character’s fear and anguish in both soliloquies and dialogue, speaking with great clarity and understanding.The same cannot be said for the entire cast, unfortunately. For some, it seemed as though they were merely reciting their lines instead of adding to them with characterisation, while others seemed uncertain; one member of the cast noticeably consulted a script onstage for some speeches. As well as this, some of the actors spoke too quietly to be clearly understood; I was only in the fourth row and just managed to hear some of the dialogue. With such archaic language, clarity was essential for understanding what was happening between the characters. For the most part, however, the performances were earnest, and the cast worked well together. One image that stayed with me was several of the allegorical figures swearing to help Everyman by placing their hands on the cross she held, a wonderful tableau. The scene where Everyman punishes herself by flagellation was also notable; in the background Low provided the sound effect with an actual whip while Jordan played a mournful tune, with Everyman crying out both in pain and prayer.Everyman was only an hour long, but it incorporated a great many complex themes and ideas in difficult dialogue. I can personally say that I understood what was going on throughout, but that may only be due to my having studied Middle English over the past year; for some, especially those sitting further from the stage, I fear what was said onstage may not have been as comprehensible. However, what this production may have lacked at times in terms of clarity and diction, the company more than made up for with their enthusiasm and their cohesiveness as a group. Overall, I greatly enjoyed this introduction to the world of medieval morality plays, and I hope to see more from this company in the future. Catriona Scott Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/events/454500234713279/ and Lightbox Creative 

On the Rocks Festival Theatre Review: Oleanna

Adam Ishaque reviews 'Oleanna' directed by Matthew Knapp and produced by James Hall, which went up as a part of the On the Rocks Festival.  1901389_965327926811163_6928972218112361899_n Oleanna is a piece of theatre that explores many ideas, as a good piece should. Delving into ideas of education, sexuality, humanity, and equality, the teacher-student relationship transcends the stage to the audience, and gives us a new insight. It was especially apt to present at a university. Where many students go from school to university without truly considering their actions, Oleanna shows us the harsh truth of surrendering to our supposed betters.The two-hander by David Mamet is widely known and revered. The story concerns John (Oliver Lennard), a university professor about to be granted tenure, and Carol (Hannah Ayesha Ritchie), a naïve student who does not seem to understand how she can improve her grades. The story evolves into a power-play where Carol tries to gain the upper hand by reporting John’s indecent behaviour to the tenure committee and effectually ruining his professional career and family life.Matthew Knapp’s direction served well in presenting this power-play. The set consisted of two chairs, a filled bookshelf, and a desk adorned with John’s files, his telephone and a picture (assumed to be of his family). The desk was the symbol of power. As the play progresses John moves from behind his desk to the student’s chair while Carol stands threateningly at the desk, displaying the shift in power as Carol’s actions chip away at John’s life and he changes from the educator to the learner. 10710413_1073926172633839_7275394940437679224_o The casting choices were similarly superb. A final year and a first year actor presented the experienced teacher and vulnerable student impeccably well. With the evolution of their characters throughout the show, Oliver Lennard and Hannah Ayesha Ritchie stood up to the task of bringing this spectacle to an eager audience. They both had their moments to shine and they took advantage of each one.Ingrained in Oleanna is the debate of who is right – who is the one we should side with? In the Director’s Note, Knapp states that both are equally right and wrong. Sexual harassment is not to be excused (in whatever form) but is it worth the the life of a person? It was wise not to present either side with particular dominance. One can expect Mamet wrote the play with this debate in mind and it is a shame some directors choose to ignore this. Thankfully, Knapp presented Oleanna for what it was with the inherent unanswerable question - who is the true victim? Adam IshaquePhoto Credit: https://www.facebook.com/events/832726396799211/ and Lightbox Creative

On The Rocks Preview - Strictly Come Dancing

 1975075_742358229131332_1756998059_n You’ve seen the TV show—now come see the real thing. On April 11th at 7.00 in Buchanan, the Ballroom and Latin Dance Society will present Strictly Come Dancing, pairing up local celebrities with ballroom professionals to compete in an event like no other. We asked the organisers a few questions about the event; here’s what they had to say. Describe the event in three words.Strictly Come Dancing! What makes this event an unmissable part of On the Rocks this year?Unlike most dancing shows, Strictly Come Dancing is a competition between several people who have never danced before and have had to prepare routines under huge time pressure (about 2 weeks or so). It adds quite a lot of spice to their performances—not to mention that they all are relatively known in the Bubble. Also, the public get to vote for their favourites. What’s something people might not know about the show?Apart from the competition part of the event we have (actual) professionals attending from other Scottish cities to demonstrate some advanced-level ballroom and Latin dances. We also have guests from Edinburgh Salsa Society, and the Hummingbirds A Cappella group singing in the meantime—so there's actually much more to the show that the competition itself. Tickets are available from the Byre website:

http://byretheatre.com/events/otr-strictly-come-dancing/

 For more information, join the Facebook event:

https://www.facebook.com/events/732385176879122/

 

On The Rocks Preview - Music, Art, and the Earth

11080993_967727829904506_7477923576332822560_n Billed as an ‘afternoon of music and sustainability’, Music, Art and the Earth is taking place in the Botanic Gardens and is a fusion of art and music. We chatted to the team behind the show to find out more: What format does your event take?We will be having a relaxing afternoon for you to come along, watch some a cappella, hang out in the Botanic glass house and create some of your own artwork! What is special about Music, Art and the Earth?Our event is a collaborative event with Transition, a local group dedicated to community action to mitigate the impacts of climate change. We are really excited to be collaborate with them and bring together an atmosphere of fun but also allow people to engage with some of the great movements happening at a local level in our community. What do you want the audience to take away from the event?We want the audience to take away a fun and thought-provoking afternoon, and above all, to enjoy the beautiful Botanics on a lovely spring day! Music, Art, and the Earth will take place 1 – 4 in the glass house at the Botanic Gardens on the 8th April, £3 (http://byretheatre.com/events/otr-music-art-and-the-earth/)To find out more join the Facebook event Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/events/879621455433722/

On The Rocks Preview - The Art of Adventure

 1907704_965352446808711_846848755443872538_n Promising a jungle, desert, and mountain face, The Art of Adventure will cover all corners of Earth from our little corner of Fife. Photography and music will be brought together to explore the beauty that comes with adventuring. We chatted to the team behind the event: What format does your event take?

The art of adventure will be a cultural awakening allowing you to experience the sights and sounds of exploration. Local adventurer Peter Syme will be speaking for an hour (6:30-7:30pm) about two of his epic adventures. The rest of the evening will be filled with live music, film and poetry to enrich your adventurous spirit whilst you browse our adventure gallery including photography from French adventure photographer Alexandre Buisse.

 What do you want the audience to take away from the event?

It will be a relaxed atmosphere enabling you to absorb our relentless passion for adventure and hopefully you will leave with the realisation that anything is possible. Adventure is everywhere go out and explore.

 The Art of Adventure will take place from 6pm – 9pm at The Vic on the 8th April. Tickets are £3. (http://byretheatre.com/events/otr-the-art-of-adventure/)To find out more join the Facebook event Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/events/336477099877545/