Quines Writes: The Way Out, A Monster Calls, Coriolanus and more

Quines Writes: The Way Out, A Monster Calls, Coriolanus and more

The Way Out / credit: Michael Lynch

The third instalment in Stellar Quines' writing programme for young women in partnership with YWCA, Feminist Fringe and The List

Quines Writes is a writing programme for young womxn hosted by Stellar Quines, in partnership with YWCA, Feminist Fringe and The List, with the aim of tackling the gender imbalance in theatre criticism. Over six weeks, participants (Ella Pennycott, Louisa Doyle, Eve Simpson, Rebecca McIlroy, Carolyn Paterson, Katie Dibb and Ellen Leslie) will be given the opportunity to develop new skills from professional development with journalists and critics. As part of the programme, participants will write one full length review and interview, alongside five shorter reviews, to be released every week and published via The List. Find out more about the programme at stellarquines.com.

The Way Out

The Way Out is filmed in a single-shot that travels through Battersea Arts Centre, discovering a range of performances in the process.

The protagonist, The Outsider, is played by Bláithín Mac Gabhann, who finds shelter from the rain as they are led through the building by The Guide who is as helpful as he is cryptic. Together they show you around the Grade II listed building, seamlessly encountering performers around each corner and doorway. Climbing down the wall in stripper shoes and Adidas sports shorts looking like the ghost of 2000s stardom, Lucy McCormick is the perfect opening act for a night of fun social satire. Singers, dancers, poets and more impart their wisdom. 'So get ready to de-colonise and moisturise' announces Sadie Sinner The Songbird as they welcome you to The Coco Butter Club in a particularly memorable portrayal of a supportive and dynamic community.

Insights and riddles are expressed through The Guide's continuous monologue which plays with words such as 'not every entrance is an entrance but every exit is an entrance.' The doors entered become synonymous with new beginnings and musings on the self.

'What do you see in the mirror?' The sometimes syrupy sweet questions are seasoned with salt. 'I look in the mirror and see a wizened, short, fat kebab-shop owner's son … but inside me there's a thin, high cheek boned, flamboyant luvie!' (Katie Dibb)

Available on the BBC iPlayer as part of their Performance Live strand.

Quines Writes: The Way Out, A Monster Calls, Coriolanus and more

A Monster Calls / credit: Manuel Horlan

A Monster Calls

'Belief is half of all healing' ; a poetic truth that beautifully unravels in The Old Vic's production ​A Monster Calls ​directed by Sally Cookson, based on the original novel by Patrick Ness. We follow the story of school boy Connor (Matthew Tennyson) ​struggling to accept the impending fate of his mum ​(Marianne Oldham), who is suffering from an undisclosed terminal illness, with her time running out. The visually striking performance is entrancing; from intricate movement to ropes that seamlessly morph into everyday objects, it's undeniable this production is sharp. When the clock strikes 12.07 we are pulled into Connor's mythical world, where a 'monster' emerges from a Yew tree, forcing him to face his fearful reality. ​A Monster Calls is a moving portrayal of grief and loss, but don't be fooled, despite the fulfilled promise of fantasy, few laughs pierce the emotional weight Connor is undoubtedly bearing. The dogmatic approach from the Monster (Stuart Goodwin) is soon forgiven as the unsung hero living within Connor's subconscious. ​A Monster Calls challenges you to acknowledge the shackles we all wear, and asks: what dark fears keep you awake at night? Confronting them can set you free. (Lucy Philip)

Quines Writes: The Way Out, A Monster Calls, Coriolanus and more

Coriolanus / credit: Johan Persson

Coriolanus

Despite being unfamiliar with Shakespeare's historical tragedy Coriolanus, the cast (including Tom Hiddleston, Alfred Enoch, Mark Gatiss) and the setup of the Donmar Warehouse stage provided a curiosity that encouraged me to watch.

Some aspects are flawlessly executed; as a huge fan of stage combat and swordplay, the scene in which Coriolanus fights Aufidius is impressive, thanks to the use of Roman style swords with a modern twist. The wider choreography is also fast-paced and thoroughly authentic. Another stand-out stunt is Coriolanus's death at the end, in which Aufidius's men hang him by the feet from a great chain and gut him. Despite hanging for such a long time, Hiddleston is still able to deliver an incredible performance.

However, the sheer intensity brought on even in the first scene is much to process. This may be due to unfamiliarity with the text, the incredibly minimalist set, or the intensely monochrome lighting. But regardless, the design appears to contrast with the nature of the play, as though perhaps it is treading the waters of reimagining Coriolanus, without going all the way to achieve it.

Whilst it did not necessarily live up to my expectations, the production provided me with the realisation for the first time of just how vital design is to a good production. (Ella Pennycot)

Quines Writes: The Way Out, A Monster Calls, Coriolanus and more

Here I Belong / credit: Helen Maybanks

Here I Belong

Commissioned by Pentabus Theatre Company, Matt Hartley's Here I Belong is a heart-warming tale that gives us a glimpse into the ups and downs of village life. Set in the fictional village of Woodside and told through the eyes of resident Elsie – played by Beatrice Curnew – the production squeezes six decades of village life into just over two hours. Despite a slightly slow start, the acting is excellent, and the storylines engrossing.

The play begins in 1953, where a pregnant Elsie is preparing the village hall for the Queen's coronation. This becomes a recurring theme and each scene is set in this hall just before an important event in Elsie's life. Along the way, she is joined by a handful of other characters, all of whom are played by Nathalie Barclay. Some interesting conversations about subjects such as politics, identity and the village's future are nestled amongst funny titbits of village gossip, which makes the performance both entertaining and moving.

The cabaret style seating fits brilliantly with the narrative and reinforces the strong sense of community spirit that runs throughout the play. There are brief moments where the audience are involved: for instance, one audience member holds a string of bunting, and the tables are draped in tablecloths, or decorated with photographs and vases depending on the occasion. After the final bows, the actresses chat with the audience as Elsie's 90th birthday cake is shared out. It's a fitting end to a wonderful play. (Ellen Leslie)

Watch Here I Belong online now.

Quines Writes: The Way Out, A Monster Calls, Coriolanus and more

Our Place, Our Time / credit: Arts Council England

Our Place, Our Time

A collaborative project devised between Bush Theatre, the Masbro Elders Project and Will Hudson, Our Place, Our Time was unable to be performed due to COVID-19. Instead, a film combining visuals, original music and physical theatre was created with filmmaker Michael Lynch, under Alex Etchart's musical direction.

Visually structured into six chapters: light, sound, taste, smell, touch and epilogue, Our Place, Our Time explores the meaning of 'Home'. The film moves between images both universal and common to the local area, the formation of the theatre piece itself and family photographs. Such images beautifully compliment the exploration of what home means to the Masbro Elders, a collective working with The Masbro Centre in Hammersmith: togetherness, food, acceptance and belonging to name a few. Chapter 5 is perhaps the most emotive, documenting the degeneration of the human body as it ages, exposing the absurdity of the 'home' in 'care home' with powerfully honest delivery.

Whilst for some home is where they are born, for others it is where they are welcome, expressed through lyrics: 'Turn this place into my space'. But such difference is a celebration, a festival of community in which The Masbro Centre is the beating heart. Rich in compassion and sincerity, Our Place, Our Time demonstrates why communal art projects are integral to collective well-being, enabling expression and somewhere to feel 'home': 'I'll be accepted, I will be loved.' (Eve Simpson)

Watch Our Place, Our Time online now and find out more about the Masbro Elders Project.

Quines Writes: The Way Out, A Monster Calls, Coriolanus and more

Contractions / credit: Fifi Poulton

Contractions

In this exciting and haunting performance, staged by a British deaf-led theatre company, director Paula Garfield explores oppressive workplaces, the awkwardness of modern relationships and dehumanisation.

Contractions, produced by Deafinetly Theatre in co-production with New Diorama Theatre, is a two-woman play set in a nameless company. Emma has a series of invasive meetings with her Manager about her romantic relationship with a fellow colleague. But what we believe to be standard office guidelines quickly take a dystopian turn, and Emma is forced to choose between her private and professional life leading to tragic consequences.

It is Deafinetly Theatre's first site-specific show taking place in a bland, monochromatic office space. The effect is immersive, even if slightly dampened while watching online. The performance combines British Sign Language, spoken English and sound recordings in an innovative fashion. Fifi Garfield delivers a strong performance as the ominous Manager, who remains on stage throughout the play arousing a sense of constant threat. In Contractions, body language denotes the power imbalance between the pair. Emma, played by Abigail Poulton, stiffens as questions become increasingly uncomfortable. The audience squirms under the Manager's panoramic gaze. The play's strong use of minuscule gestures lay bare the realities of totalitarian workplaces.

Not only is the plot necessary for today's economic crisis, but Contractions is a must-see example of accessible and innovative theatre that questions society both on and off the stage. (Carolyn Paterson)

Watch Contractions online now.

Quines Writes: The Way Out, A Monster Calls, Coriolanus and more

The Unknown Island / credit: Cameron Slater

The Unknown Island

Gate Theatre's The Unknown Island begins as a parable but swiftly evolves beyond such simplified constraints. Based on José Saramago's short story, Ellen McDougall and Clare Slater have created a show all about self-introspection and the power of dreaming.

Rosie Elnile creates an oceanic room where the four cast members tell the story of a man who asks his king for a boat in order to find an unknown island. The man's patience and perseverance inspires the cleaning lady to follow his journey and reclaim her own. While initially a little confusing as they jump from character to character, you quickly settle into the delivery.

Before they set off on the voyage, there is a lovely moment where they share bread and wine with the audience, providing a pause before the big voyage. The show then begins its chaotic dream sequence. What begins in blackout becomes a foreboding unraveling of the man's journey helped along with balloon animals. It becomes hard to tell if it is still the dream or in fact reality as everything goes wrong. The closing moments are dulled in comparison to the vibrancy of the prior sequence as the window to outside the theatre is opened and bathes the room in a startling white light.

Ultimately, The Unknown Island leaves its viewer with a sense of possibility thanks to the engrossing storytelling ability of its cast and crew. It isn't about finding the island, it's about believing that there is one out there. (Rebecca McIlroy)

Watch The Unknown Island on the Gate Theatre's YouTube until Tue 30 Jun.

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