<![CDATA[Within Her Words]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/homeRSS for NodeFri, 07 May 2021 19:03:47 GMT<![CDATA[Magnetic North presented by Border Crossings and the British Museum]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/post/magnetic-north-presented-by-border-crossings-and-the-british-museum5fd869b93495920017d44b43Tue, 15 Dec 2020 07:49:33 GMTAmy Toledano

What Is It?

An online event celebrating the work of Indigenous Arctic artists. It’s part of Border Crossings’ ORIGINS Festival, in partnership with the British Museum.

What Is It About?

Magnetic North platforms the work of a variety of Indigenous artists from across the Arctic and includes storytelling, poetry, dance, music, and more. It also showcases stunning visuals and landscapes. It offers perspectives on COVID-19 and the climate crisis that may be new to those who don’t live in the polar region.

How Did It Make Me Feel?

Bookended by Torgeir Vassvik’s Sámi yoik and accented throughout with Kiliii Yuyan’s wonderful photographic and visual work, Magnetic North manages to capture a distinctive mood and sense of place that can be difficult to achieve in the online format. This is great as sense of place and atmosphere magnifies the message of what is being shared, as it encourages the viewer to put aside any assumptions or preconceptions they may have regarding the many cultures that are portrayed here. It places viewers in situ and removes the middleman: this is a very generous sharing that I feel grateful to have witnessed. It is a rare experience to hear the oral histories, poetry and storytelling presented in their original languages, by artists including Hivshu, Ishmael Angaluuk Hope and Laakuluk Williamson-Bathory—and the Greenlandic mask dancing of the incredible Elisabeth Heilmann Blind.

The conversation surrounding climate change and COVID-19 is well-integrated, woven into and amongst the art, and is in some ways inseparable. It’s much more difficult to ignore the impending sense of climate catastrophe when your entire lifestyle and cultural history is adversely affected year-on-year. For these communities, it isn’t as abstract as many Western politicians like to pretend it is. It confronts the viewer with the reality that the people who are most affected by these crises are often the ones who are most excluded from this conversation. Magnetic North showcases the admirable work of young activists such as Caitlyn Baikie, who are pushing back against this exclusion through education programmes, expeditions, advocacy and scientific research. They provide the leadership we need now.

I’m not sure how self-aware the production itself is regarding the lingering effects of colonisation, and indeed colonialism. The first couple of minutes of Magnetic North present us with some silent shots of objects behind glass display cases in the British Museum. Presumably the intention behind this is to communicate something along the lines of—‘behind these neatly catalogued objects are real people with real stories: we cannot speak for them, therefore the sound will come on only when they do.’ I understand that this event accompanies an on-going exhibition to which the production may have wished to signpost viewers, but conveying this through this kind of framing introduction doesn’t work. This symbolic scene-setting and mediation is unnecessary and is at odds with the intimacy achieved by the rest of the event. These artists need to be heard right away, in their own way and on their own terms, and they do not need to be contextualised in this manner.

Anything Else?

This event is part of the public programme accompanying the Citi exhibition Arctic: culture and climate, available to view at the British Museum 22 October 2020-21 February 2021.

Arden x

Magnetic North streamed on the British Museum’s YouTube channel on Thursday December 3rd 2020.


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<![CDATA[In Search of a White Identity presented by The Actors Centre]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/post/in-search-of-a-white-identity-presented-by-the-actors-centre5fd86780bb13240017f34feeTue, 15 Dec 2020 07:45:36 GMTAmy Toledano

What Is It?

Originally created as part of The Actors Centre’s Working Class Season curated by Actor Awareness in 2019, In Search of a White Identity has been re-envisioned as a remotely accessed digital performance as part of the The Actors Centre’s on demand theatre season. Written by Cliffordkuju Henry and performed by Henry and Drew Edwards, In Search of a White Identity is directed by Victoria Evaristo and produced by Toad in the Hole Theatre company.

What Is It About?

Patrick and Mickey are childhood friends, but neither has seen the other since their formative years in working class London. Yet when the two grown men find themselves locked up in the same police cell following a fraught protest demonstration, Patrick and Mickey find themselves on different sides of the race debate that has permeated through this fractious year of 2020. This powerful two hander brings to light the difficult conversations that have been vital within our cultural consciousness, addressing the social parallels and injustices of modern Britain through a post-colonial and working class lens.

How Did It Make Me Feel?

There are some plays that are created with a sense of urgency to them, with a message and a dialogue that needs to be expressed immediately because of the cultural momentum behind them. In Search of a White Identity is one such play, re-imagined in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement of the past year and the global repercussions that have come with facing up to our white washed history and white supremacist culture.

This pressure cooker play could have easily become another show simply decrying the evils of white supremacy, highlighting the ignorant hatred of those who align themselves with the far right, but what this play does instead is far more nuanced and impactful. This is a play about dialogue, literally and figuratively, as the stark holding cell set offers little in the way of visual metaphor, instead focusing our entire attention upon the two men who occupy the space. The conversations, discussions and arguments shared between these two men take centre stage, and just as Drew Edwards’ Mickey frequently asserts that no one is listening to him and the white working class that he represents, the irony of his frustration becomes apparent the more he and Cliffordkuju Henry’s Patrick talk. This is a play about listening; talking and listening, something which can seem so simple at face value, but in reality, can bring with it great discomfort, pain and anguish.

Henry’s writing avoids any preaching pretence with its directness, and while it skirts around sentimentality, there is real heart in every word spoken by these two men. The contradictions and similarities between Mickey and Patrick’s experiences ring true and with sincerity, and the power of their connection is keenly felt. This is a play for our times, articulating the vital conversations that need to be had in modern Britain, conversations that demand a lot of hard, introspective work for those who have benefited from our white supremacist power structures.

Anything Else?

An urgent piece of theatre that offers a nuanced exploration into the parallels and contradictions of working class and racial identities in modern Britain. Henry and Edwards’ performances truly shine in this powerful piece.

Alexandra x

In Search of a White Identity is available online via The Actors Centre website until Sunday December 6th.


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<![CDATA[Little Wars by StevenCarl McCasland]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/post/little-wars-by-stevencarl-mccasland5fa8e67f0a330f00173daeb0Tue, 10 Nov 2020 04:29:07 GMTAmy Toledano

What is it?

A digital rehearsed reading of Steven Carl McCasland´s Little Wars.

What is it all about?

Bringing together six exceptional women, Little Wars unites literary figureheads Gertrude Stein (Bassett), her girlfriend Alice Toklas (Russell), Dorothy Parker (Chazen), Lillian Hellman

(Stevenson) and Agatha Christie (Thompson), with anti-fascist freedom fighter Muriel Gardiner

(Solemani), in the most fantastical what-if dinner party imaginable. Tensions are high and

secrecy lingers in the air, but with libations flowing and the threat of World War II looming the

guests are close to boiling point.

How did it make me feel?

Experiencing online theatre it´s quite a new experience. At the beginning it felt like being on, yet another, zoom call from work. But it only took a few minutes to sink in to the extraordinary universe that is Stein´s dinner party. The company could not be better and the topics of the evening are not as far away as one might like to think. It is pretty unbelievable that almost one hundred years later, women around the world are still fighting to achieve laws that guarantee basic human rights in regards of abortion, same sex marriage and rape. It is fascinating to witness how these remarkable women share opinions about such sensitive manners and also how often what is supposed to bring them together, actually divides them. They are living in uncertain times and the rumours about the concentration camps grew strongly around Europe. You can perceive the mistrust and the suspicion with every question they ask to each other. The resentment towards certain points of view or perspectives, everything brilliantly reasoned, and it highlights how as humankind we react in times of radical change. All this in one evening that also includes personal revelations.

Where is it playing?

Streaming worldwide: Tuesday 3rd – Sunday 8th November 2020

Anything else?

Little wars is brilliantly performed but these six actresses who have done a wonderful job bringing these characters and circumstances to life.

Ingrid x

Little Wars is streaming worldwide until Sunday 8th November 2020.


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<![CDATA[Next Thing You Know presented at The Garden Theatre ]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/post/next-thing-you-know-presented-at-the-garden-theatre5f98bede8d09f9001739117eWed, 28 Oct 2020 01:10:16 GMTAmy Toledano

What is it?

A musical, performed outside in the courtyard of the Eagle bar in Vauxhall, about four New York artists picking up the pieces of their disappointing twenties. If it sounds familiar, that’s because it is, treading lightly on musicals like Rent and Ordinary Days. Commendably, the production has been cast entirely from 2020 graduates whose entrance into the industry was aborted by Covid.

What is it about?

Waverley is a wannabe actor who isn’t sure she wants to be an actor anymore. Her boyfriend, Darren, is more interested in the plays he spends all night writing. Her best friend Lisa is growing tired of waiting for ‘the one’ who never comes. Darren’s workmate, Luke, is a raging ‘lad’, whose casual sexism forms the crutch of far too many of the jokes and is left dangerously unchallenged by the narrative.

How did it make me feel?

Next Thing You Know, much like most people’s twenties, delivers exactly what you’d expect, slightly less well than you’d hope. It’s chipper, wistful, and features a song about being hungover. It’s also a perfect catch for the Eagle’s makeshift theatre; it doesn’t require much in the way of movement, and the Eagle’s outdoor bar is easily repurposed as a New York dive.

However, the production could do with a bit more pluck to make it really sing. The relationships are thinly sketched – it is hard to believe Waverley and Darren had ever had a romantic relationship, let alone one basing the narrative arc of a musical on. The Rent-old formula of artists struggling in New York wasn’t played against enough to really delineate this as unique. There’s also some slightly hackneyed staging.

All the same, the lyrics are witty, the music is anodyne but pleasing, and anyone on the brink of a new life stage will find enough to identify with. There’s a charming scene between Luke and Darren as they talk through their computers’ automated voice software, cannily suggesting the alienation of a generation both empowered and fractured by technology. The show is endearingly updated for the current moment, complete with temperature gun and jokes about face masks.

Gratingly, this modernisation is somewhat uneven. ‘Things have changed since the Eisenhower administration’, Luke drawls, but this is apparently not true in the show’s gender politics. Women are ‘pinned’, racially stereotyped (‘There was Annika, I used paprika, she barely used a fork’ complains Luke of one of his past lovers), and fall stupidly for the tricks of a shallow conman. It’s not a problem for a character to be misogynistic, but this becomes hard to swallow if the production lets it pass unquestioned. Even more eye-rollingly, there’s an excruciating moment when two men have an argument about a woman whilst she hovers awkwardly – and silently - in the background.

Anything Else?

A more self-aware production would have got away with Luke’s casual misogyny and the musical’s wearying clichés. In its favour, the lyrics have wit, the music is pretty and, with a second lockdown impending, now is probably the right time for an upbeat ditty about letting go of youthful dreams.

Grace x

Next Thing You Know presented at The Garden Theatre until the 31st October 2020.


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(Reviewer has opted not to star this production)

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<![CDATA[Press Play presented by Popelei]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/post/press-play-presented-by-popelei5f98b876afab61001774e1d1Wed, 28 Oct 2020 00:29:29 GMTAmy Toledano

What is it?

A two week season of audio plays, short films and community digital projects. Written and performed by an acclaimed and international female-led creative team, these six original pieces explore connection and empowerment in our current uncertain times of isolation.

What is it all about?

Under the current circumstances the audio plays included in the Press Play Season push all the right buttons. They boost your imagination as you embark on three, very different, sensorial experiences.

How did it make me feel?

Mirrors is a piece that offers you the possibility to pay attention to yourself and how are you feeling in the moment. It teleports you to places that you thought were forgotten and reminds you of the importance of being kind to yourself. The fact that you are looking into a mirror while listening to it makes it so much more powerful.

Feast is unexpected and familiar at the same time. With all this uncertainty surrounding us it´s a reminder that good things have happened to us and they will happen again. The importance of the people that love us and the ones that we haven´t crossed paths with yet.

Half Acre talks about the experiences in life that affect us in ways that we cannot imagine or predict and might define us. How as humans we crave to connect with others and how hard that can be sometimes.

You Give Me Butterflies is the perfect example of how new technologies can be used to keep us connected to each other, how they can push you to the next level and bring us together.

Each audio play has been designed to be listened to in a particular environment and this adds an amazing touch to the whole experience.

Anything else?

The subtle way of interacting with the listener in a physical way by making them aware of what it is their body is saying about them (body posture, tensions…) and the sound design is beautifully done and makes the whole experience so unique and personal.

Ingrid x

#PressPlaySeason Monday 19th October - Monday 2nd November 2020 Mirrors, Feast, Half Acre, You Give Me Butterflies are all available ,www.popelei.com/press-play

The Chocolate Play will take place on 24th October

Desa(R)mar will be a live performance on 25th October at 6pm


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<![CDATA[Living with the Lights On by Mark Lockyer]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/post/living-with-the-lights-on-by-mark-lockyer5f98b0aaafab61001774d76aWed, 28 Oct 2020 00:04:09 GMTAmy Toledano

What is it? 

One man play Living with the Lights On by Mark Lockyer

What is it about?  Meet Mark, he’s an actor, or, he was an actor. This is his story about surviving and living with bipolar disorder.

How did it make me feel? 

Let’s start with the positives, Mark Lockyer is a very charismatic actor and does have incredible  stage presence. His interpretation of Queen Mab’s speech from Romeo and Juliet showcases that he has a great understanding of the Bard’s work. The overall play however, is completely self indulgent. In a time when various movements are fighting to progress society, this play had some extremely offensive stereotyping, for instance referring to another character as ‘toffee skinned’ and going on to do a racist interpretation of said character. It is very clear that Lockyer's view on women is purely carnal even manipulating one who was 'so in love in him but was on the chunky side’, and then going on to have sex with said woman (using a chair to showcase the act). 

The real bullet comes in the form of his manic depression. Mental health is an extremely difficult subject at the best of times to deal with, but to make fun of it makes the act look like a walk in the park, rather then a very serious situation. Mental Health, is crippling at the best and worst of times. It feels as though Lockyer has no regrets about making fun of the people who are there to help him rather than take any responsibility for his past behaviours. 

The show feels more like a stand up comic doing his best to be offensive for the sake of being offensive rather than tell an actual story. Lockyer also started heckling members of the audience who were leaving to go to the bathroom, and this does nothing to amplify the story, simply to amplify his ego.

Also the set up of the space is very cluttered and distracts from the main action, and does not accommodate the text.

Where is it on?

It’s on at the new Off West End Theatre The Golden Goose from 13th October to 17th October 2020.

Anything Else? 

In this time of a global pandemic it would be so nice and courteous to see members of the audience respecting the rules and guidelines by wearing their masks during the entirety of the play but unfortunately this was not the case.

The Golden Goose team were telling audience members at the start of the show to keep their masks on but an announcement (much like the phone announcement that Mark gives at the beginning of the play) would have been appropriate. 

Claire-Monique x

Living with the Lights On is playing at The Golden Goose Theatre until 17th October 2020.


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<![CDATA[Macbeth presented by Big Telly Theatre]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/post/macbeth-presented-by-big-telly-theatre5f94b7536d326400178c72ceTue, 27 Oct 2020 23:32:41 GMTAmy Toledano

What Is It?

An immersive virtual reboot of the Shakespeare classic, directed by Zoe Seaton. This is Seaton’s fourth digital production since lockdown—just in time for spooky season.

What Is It About?

Witches! Ambition! Power! A cautionary tale about fate and self-fulfilling prophecy, set in a world where reality and illusion are hard to tell apart, and inept rulers fall short of the duties of their stations. Imagine such a world!

How Did It Make Me Feel?

“Oh, and finally, please draw the curtains, dim the lights and lock the door.”

These instructions on the Zoom link email set a tone, and it shines a light on how experiential all digital theatre is. It really does start at the point of opening your inbox. Woe betide you should Zoom not want to start up properly.

We are instructed to keep cameras on and minimise thumbnails, though I do sometimes check what’s going on. It’s a lot! Especially for the multi-rolling actors, as some of the roles have swift transitions. Dharmesh Patel’s appearances as Banquo, then a witch, are charismatic, and amusing on a certain level. It’s nice to think that Banquo gets to torment Macbeth as an apparition later on. Dennis Herdman’s Macbeth deteriorates in a satisfying way—how could it not be, when “is this a dagger I see before me?” is addressed to you, personally, in a Zoom call? Herdman achieves a sensitive complexity with the character that shines through, even while navigating all the overlays and technical considerations demanded of the staging.

Extreme close-ups, rhythmic sound design, sometimes strangely-scaled backdrops, and the use of filter effects (a lot of B&W, sometimes red) combine to give the production the feel of German Expressionist horror—think The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari—which is all too apt, as that too was a genre that experimented with a new visual format of storytelling in a time of necessity and change.

This sometimes inspires humour rather than terror, but it’s all part of the game. The German Expressionists didn’t have to do it with every member of the cast and crew sitting in a different geographical location. The production is aware of the limitations of the format, and so is the audience. After all, we are part of the call, and therefore the show. This unspoken accord means that there is space for some fun moments without jarring the tone, for example at Macbeth’s coronation, where we are encouraged to wave at his passing carriage, and he waves back. There are more delightful surprises like this, which I won’t spoil for you. The real standout scene is when the witches-as-stage managers show Macbeth the apparitions that will prove to be his downfall, in an empty theatre. It’s a meta nod at the people who look after the buildings, and the people who make productions such as this possible. I am quite certain that Zoom user ‘WIZARD’ was technical stage manager Sinead Owens, a username well lived up to!

The tech and production team deserves a round of applause. There were no technical malfunctions that I noticed on the night I saw it. Readers will note that this is deeply impressive, considering the capricious nature of Zoom. Hopefully the rising prevalence of digital theatre means people in these roles receive more of the recognition and acknowledgment they’ve always deserved for their hard work.

Beyond its notorious curse, Macbeth is a play that frequently tends to hit some awkward and unwieldy notes when staged live. This is mostly a Shakespeare-the-poet overruling Shakespeare-the-playwright thing. Nobody’s perfect. But perhaps he really was far ahead of his time, because the story seems to flow better in this format, without much being cut.

Anything Else?

I believe the experience is enhanced with good quality headphones, if you have them, as Garth McConaghie’s sound design adds a lot of atmosphere and it would be a shame to miss out.

I never fail to be impressed by the creativity and resourcefulness shown in digital theatre. It took me a short while to warm up to the idea, on the basis of sorely missing in-person, live theatre. But I’ve more than caught up by now. These are the times we’re in, and productions such as these are a reminder that the show does go on, and indeed would probably not have happened in this way if necessity hadn’t forced innovation.

Arden x

Macbeth will be playing live on Zoom until 31st October.


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<![CDATA[Overcooked! 2—Team 17 & Ghost Town Games]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/post/overcooked-2-team-17-ghost-town-games5f94b2c6fc8a250017c3b278Sat, 24 Oct 2020 23:17:44 GMTAmy Toledano

What is it?

A cooperative cooking simulation game, developed by Ghost Town Games and co-developed and published by Team17, which you may remember for the classic Worms series.

What is it about?

It’s good to be back in the Onion Kingdom. This time round, the Onion King has accidentally summoned the Unbread by reciting a recipe from the Necronomnomicon. Only you and your fellow chefs can stop the ravenous horde. You will do this by departing on a quest to collect and learn all the recipes, and how to get more in-sync with each other in the kitchen. This will save the Onion Kingdom.

In teams of up to four players, you will (hopefully) cooperatively prepare and cook orders in settings strange and wonderful.

How did it make me feel?

The sequel introduces online multiplayer while preserving the couch co-op gameplay that made the first game so good. I feel that couch co-op is an especially valuable feature for this era of lockdowns and social bubbles. It’s a shame that it’s one that has been phased out slightly over the last few years, in favour of online. It’s much more fun sitting next to people you know. This might be an old-school sensibility at this point, but I do think it makes the inevitable yelling funnier.

And yell you will. You may be playing with someone you’re so close to as to be drift-compatible. This will not matter. Surrounded by cute motifs and whimsical characters and settings, there will come a point at which you will abruptly shift from ‘zero’ to ‘enraged’, and it will be glorious—and hilarious. You will not care if they’re busy. You will not care if they’re putting out a fire. You will not care if they’re lovingly chopping up tomatoes for you, unasked, to make your job easier, just because they saw they had a tiny bit of leeway and wanted to be helpful. You need them out of the way so you can deliver the order in time to get the score multiplier, without which you will not get the high score and will have to start again. You need them to move, now. This is serious.

This offers curiously nuanced insight into what kitchen work is really like, for those uninitiated to the culinary arts. Gordon Ramsay’s persona on American television makes more sense now. I played with someone who worked in a restaurant, and asked them whether this is how it feels to be a cook. “Yes,” they said. “The rage you feel playing this is a tenth of the rage that burns as hot as a pizza oven when you work in a kitchen with others.” (Actual quote.) Bet they don’t tell you that at the Cordon Bleu.

This makes the game sound intense, but it’s not in an unpleasant way! The gameplay is extremely satisfying and addictive, and the level design is intuitive and clever. You will want to push yourself to the limits of efficiency and hatch intricate battle plans and tactics. You will cook in hot air balloons that will inevitably crash, throw ingredients across floating platforms, and dash through portals to get to the cooker in time. You will make things like sushi, burgers, and burritos. You will fend off the Unbread by… making salad.

I was a bit disappointed with the secret ‘extra hard’ difficulty levels. They got repetitive after a while, no matter how cute the premise: Kevin the dog may love steamed buns but I don’t think I will ever be able to look at one again without thinking of complex conveyor belt strategy and feeling abject rage, which is a tragedy. Some recipe variation would have kept the increasing challenge fresh.

Overall, a very fun way to spend time with friends and loved ones.

Anything else?

The avatars you can unlock are all really well-designed and sweet. There’s plenty there to keep you playing and re-playing to try and beat your high scores.

Keep your eyes peeled when driving around the overworld map. Running over toast zombies makes the most delightful sound effect play. It’s fine, they’re fine, they get up again. They’re the Unbread.

Arden x

Overcooked 2 is available on Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Overcooked: All You Can Eat, a compilation of the first and second game, will be released on Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X.


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<![CDATA[Feathers presented by Gutter Street]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/post/feathers-presented-by-gutter-street5f7aefc56c3e2b0017ac7292Mon, 05 Oct 2020 10:18:13 GMTAmy Toledano

What is it? 

Gutter Street presents ‘Feathers’ written and directed by Leo Flanagan

What is it about? 

The day before a national draft, two ‘Feather’ siblings prepare for a separated journey to the north, to escape from the district’s draft board. Before they leave their bookshop they have one final visitor to their shop that make them question patriotism, ignorance and when does morality become cowardice.

How did it make me feel? 

Gutter Street’s ‘Feathers’ could be a tale told of today or yester-year. The term ‘Feathers’ in the piece is used as a form of cowardly behaviour for people not wanting to be ‘drafted’. It has an eerie ring to how things could become and to how some countries already draft. 

The intimate Calder Bookshop theatre (socially distanced down to a T) is the perfect setting for the bookshop that siblings Kaleb and Cecilly (performed superbly by Nathan Chatelier and Charlotte Keith) co - inhabit before trying to escape and flee to the north for safe haven. Matt Howdon as Haines gives much needed comedic relief and has a truly touching moment with Nathan Chatelier.

What is great about this play (written extremely well by director Leo Flanagan) is that it gives two sides to a complicated matter, to believe in the propaganda or to search for the proof that it is in fact propaganda.

It could easily have been another play about how one side is wrong but it shows that it doesn’t matter what side of the fence you are on, there are still going to be questions and doubt on both sides. 

Anything Else? 

It is so wonderful to see theatre coming back after such a long hiatus due to the pandemic, and even more pleasing is when the production is this good, and makes the audience question their own actions and opinions. This show absolutely deserves to have another run with a bigger audience.

Claire-Monique x

Feathers played at The Calder Bookshop from 25th to 26th September 2020.


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<![CDATA[How to Make Curry Goat by Louise McStravick]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/post/how-to-make-curry-goat-by-louise-mcstravick5f4b8444da01970017ffa61fSun, 30 Aug 2020 11:19:31 GMTAmy Toledano

What is it?

How to Make Curry Goat is a book of poetry containing thirty-three poems by Louise McStravick. The collection explores McStravick’s mixed Jamaican and “Brummie” background, growing up, and of course, how to actually make curry goat.

What is it about?

How to Make Curry Goat is a life cookbook; real recipes/instructions are blended with life advice and commentary on growing up. Each of the thirty-three poems are a nod to McStravick’s Jamaican heritage, her experience growing up and living in Birmingham, and/or to growing older. As food is such an important part of any culture, McStravick uses it as a window into her lived experience.

The poem, “A daughter’s guide to poaching an egg” details the process of making a poached egg while using it as a metaphor for adapting, something someone like McStravick with a mixed heritage is no stranger to. In, “How to make Curry Goat,” the collection’s namesake, McStravick creates a mock conversation between herself and either her father or an older Jamaican male relative. The poem is vivid and lively. She mixes Jamaican Patois with British English while mixing Jamaican and British ingredients to make a Caribbean staple. How to Make Curry Goat is ultimately about mixing — ingredients, backgrounds, languages, and experiences all into one beautiful dish.  

How did it make me feel?

It made me nostalgic for a childhood that I never had, which is a testament to McStravick’s brilliantly arranged words and exceptional world-building skills. Each poem, even the shorter ones, are pregnant with vivid imagery. All of them are noteworthy, but the ones that most stick out are “Just Another Road in Erdington,” “How to Make Curry Goat,” and “Adult Braces.” “Just another road in Erdington” is rich revisiting of McStravick’s childhood, “How to make curry goat” is a creative recipe, and “Adult braces” is a short poem about conforming. This line from the last piece stood out the most: “It hurts, so it’s working.” McStravick has a real talent for transporting you into the worlds that she creates and How to Make Curry Goat is proof of that.

Where is it available?

From Fly on the Wall Press as an ebook or softcover.

Anything else?

This is a brilliant bit from “Just another road in Erdington”:

“Two witches used to live on the street,

their hair had white streaks

and they would scare children with their silence;

they had no sweets.

One day they were in the newspaper,

gassed in their garage, suicide, death, violent.

We regret calling them witches.”

Rebecca x


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<![CDATA[Alice, A Virtual Adventure presented in Creation Theatre, Big Telly Theatre Company and Charisma.AI]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/post/alice-a-virtual-adventure-presented-in-creation-theatre-big-telly-theatre-company-and-charisma-ai5f324019cab1950018466800Tue, 11 Aug 2020 07:33:03 GMTAmy Toledano

What is it?

The wacky and inevitable end point of a society that has spent far, far too long on Zoom.

What is it about?

An online, interactive, family-friendly ‘theme park’ which takes one of the most adapted stories on the planet – Alice in Wonderland – and one of the most unexpected winners of 2020 – Zoom – and exploits both for all their boxes of tricks are worth. We’re invited to a video call and then, from the off, presented with a series of choices, such as do you want to meet the Queen of Hearts, or the cook who makes her tarts? Each character then winningly and ingeniously introduces themselves into the story, often with a relevant exercise – a game of musical statues, for example, in which losing means ‘losing your head’.

How did it make me feel?

Considering how well-trodden Alice in Wonderland is, there was a real thrill in having no idea what to expect beforehand, and being repeatedly surprised. Plus, as someone who now holds a world-weary pride in my Zoom expertise, I found the technological sleights-of-hand that this show pulls off genuinely jaw-dropping. Part of the delight of Alice is the surprise element, so I won’t say too much, but some savvy tech magician (credited as Illusionist Paul McEneaney) has clearly fallen through a Zoom hole into a video conferencing wonderland. It’s very much in these moments of tech magic that the game of the production lies, and any narrative through-line is secondary. I found the first section, where the audience has the most ability to make choices to meet different characters, dragged for this reason, but the momentum picked up again once we were more decisively carried along by the story.

Where is it playing?

You can buy tickets on the Creation Theatre website, and will be sent a Zoom link to join the event nearer the time. It’s on from 1st – 30th August, at 4pm and 7pm.

Anything Else?

The interactive elements will hold particular charm for children, but any grown-up theatre goers craving the community of theatre will get a kick from watching the rest of the audience. Never in a ‘real-life’ theatre can you see other spectator’s reactions so clearly, and I found it an especial joy to watch a child upend themselves in imitation of the March Hare’s ‘synchronised swimming’.

Grace x

Alice, A Virtual Adventure is playing on Zoom until 30th August 2020.


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<![CDATA[The Coolidge Effect presented by Wonderfools 2020]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/post/the-coolidge-effect-presented-by-wonderfools-20205f24a148527f2d001717bf3eFri, 31 Jul 2020 23:11:39 GMTAmy Toledano

What is it?

An audio play, part of Wonder Fools 2020 Season, Stories to Connect Us.

What is it about?

Porn addiction and more specifically, porn’s role in society. The story offers first-hand accounts and experiences from those who have benefitted from porn. It balances the conversation with a fictional story about Gary (Robbie Gordo) a father who is also a paedophile and his son, George (Robbie Gordon) who has a porn addiction.

How did it make me feel?

The play packs a lot in fifty short minutes. And while the scientific experiments and first-hand accounts are interesting, the narrative of the play gets lost in the noise. Because of this, the story becomes two dimensional, never allowing the audience to see the humanity of Gary. This is already a tough feat on its own, considering that Gary is a paedophile, but we the audience don’t need to hear him masturbating to teen porn if the sole goal is to show his disgusting true nature. That’s already implied.

Besides Gary and his son George, we are also introduced to Gail, a porn producer and Retrospect, an ex-porn addict. As these two characters don’t get as much audio time, their stories are never fully developed and the intention behind them is lost. Furthermore, Retrospect only speaks in riddles and there is a whole section in which Gail speaks, and then in turn other characters speak over her, which forces her words to just turn into noise.

At the end of the piece, Gary, after masturbating to a teen at a takeaway shop, returns home to his son George, who he’s been neglecting. It’s as if all of Gary’s problems will soon wash away because he’s now opening up to his son. But father/son relationships, toxic masculinity, and paedophilia are much messier than that.

Where is it playing?

The Coolidge Effect is available for download from July 28 until October 3 on the Wonder Fools website.

Anything Else?

The play is equally messy and too neat, which is a shame because the actual Coolidge Effect is very interesting. The play succeeds most when it is focusing on one story instead of the voices of many. Writers Jack Nurse and Robbie Gordon have such a captivating way of telling stories about experiments and rats, and the music of composer, VanIves is so magical, it’s a shame that most of it is overshadowed by disjointed stories.

Rebecca x

The Coolidge Effect is available for download from July 28 until October 3 on the Wonder Fools website.


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<![CDATA[Jack and the Beanstalk presented by Buglight Theatre Company]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/post/jack-and-the-beanstalk-presented-by-buglight-theatre-company5f16a786d8031e0017636b91Tue, 21 Jul 2020 08:39:21 GMTAmy Toledano

What is it?

Jack and the Beanstalk: Live in Your Living Room is a live play on Zoom! It is performed in the traditional panto style which brings a much needed break to all of us in lockdown. Because it is live, this production allows for a totally interactive performance, even though it is online! All cameras are on, microphones are hot, and the audience is encouraged to respond and interact with the cast as the screen constantly shifts. 

What is it about?

Not unlike the traditional Jack & The Beanstalk, there is mean old giant (hilariously played by Richard Galloway) but this time, he has gone completely power hungry and is on a mission to take over the world, beginning with all the boys and girls who have logged into the Zoom session! We soon meet Jill (Holly Greig), who is a virtual Vlogger (Instagram Celeb, if you will), who is on "lockdown" inside the giant's home in the clouds. The giant believes Jill, with all her Vlogging knowledge, will be able to help him succeed. Back on earth, we meet our heroes Jack, Dazey the Cow and Dame Pinch. As we know, Jack and his mother are quite down on their luck, but in this panto version, Dazey procures the magic beans and Jack saves Jill when he opens a spam email from the Giant which contains an SOS from Jill!

How did it make me feel?

As far as virtual/Zoom plays go, this one is very well done. There are no connection issues, it is flawlessly directed (by Sarah Lyle & Keeley Lane), and it is high energy, which helps with engagement on a small screen. What stands out the most and really makes the production work, is the way in which each transition from character to character is seamless and completely unique to one another. I love that Cre8 and Buglight Theatre came together to create such a fun piece for families to offer something a little different while we are all stuck at home without any theatre.

Anything Else?

I do believe that theatre/panto productions still work best onstage, especially when it is an interactive piece, but this is a fantastic substitute for the time being.

Natasha x

Jack and the Beanstalk was performed via Zoom until the 19th July 2020.


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<![CDATA[DOUBLE presented by Darkfield ]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/post/double-presented-by-darkfield5f10ff9c9ee81c00176ef731Fri, 17 Jul 2020 01:40:17 GMTAmy Toledano

What Is It?

DOUBLE is an at-home two-person audio experience by Darkfield via their app, Darkfield Radio. It’s also the first broadcast on the app.

What Is It About?

You and a partner are instructed to sit in a kitchen, opposite one another, with headphones in and eyes closed. The show begins with a short introduction by a Narrator, presumably the person who runs the dystopian sounding Darkfield Radio. The action takes place in a room with a Voice who is suffering from the Capgras delusion, a condition in which the sufferer is

convinced that a loved one has been replaced by an exact replica with malign intentions. The Voice smashes and throws items in frustration and finally exits the room in search of their true husband.

How Did It Make Me Feel?

Unfortunately, the experience was very confusing. To take part in the experience, the show requires two people in a kitchen, however it is unclear why. At one point, both people are required to get a glass of water from the kitchen, but the water is never used nor referenced save for the beginning. The performance would not have changed if two people were listening while lying on a sofa or if one person was listening solo in bed. The experience claims that it’s immersive, which turns out to be a deception. It’s a shame because this audio show has so much potential.

The actual show is confusing as well. There is lots of repetition of lines and of disorienting and jolting sounds, yet no concrete story. The Voice explains that a demon replaced their husband, but it’s not understood where this Voice is or what they’re doing. The story ends after twenty minutes with the Voice deciding to search for their husband and with a tease to listen out for the next episode.

Anything Else?

This show has so much potential. If the creators truly made it immersive and had each two-person audience interact with each other and their surroundings, it could be quite an amazing show!

Rebecca x

DOUBLE is playing on Darkfield Radio Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday until the 2nd August 2020.


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<![CDATA[BLACK WOMEN DATING WHITE MEN by Somebody Jones ]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/post/black-women-dating-white-men-by-somebody-jones5f10faf08c01fe0017de0952Fri, 17 Jul 2020 01:25:33 GMTAmy Toledano

What is it?

BLACK WOMEN DATING WHITE MEN is an online play, in the form of vignette monologues, based on the writer's (Somebody Jones) own experiences. The play presents itself as a full Zoom production as a part of Hollywood Fringe’s Virtual Festival.

What is it about?

BLACK WOMEN DATING WHITE MEN is about exactly what you think: strong, beautiful, confident black women and their experiences dating white men. The five women cast give personal interviews about their individual experiences dating white men. While watching this online in what looks like a big group video chat, it is easy to imagine if it were on stage each woman would be standing or sitting with their individual spotlight, and recounting their stories in the same way. The talented cast is composed of women with different backgrounds, some American, some British, some American living in England, and some are mixed race. As a viewer, this allows for a broader conversation which offers many more experiences. They cover topics of activism, privilege, and the 'mystery of headscarves'. The key take away from this production is that it celebrates love in all of its forms. 

How did it make me feel?

I must admit, it feels very nuanced watching a Zoom play. The way the women (Christelle Belinga, Arianne Carless, Merryl Ansah, Clara Emanuel, Risha Silvera) portray their characters on video chat is so natural that I feels as if I am eavesdropping on a private friend's chat! While I appreciate finding this new medium in times of lockdown and COVID-19, it is more difficult to connect with the medium as a means of theatre. 

That being said, the content is incredibly relevant, especially at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement. What I find effective about this script is that it is honest and doesn't have an agenda. It is simply five women chatting, trying to connect and find a new community outside of their societal norms. 

Additionally, I think this play opens a window for people to take a glimpse into other communities and experiences. As previously stated, the play does not have an agenda, and it is the conversational tone of the play that is welcoming to those who need to unlearn and relearn about race and inter-racial relationships. 

Anything else?

An insightful piece that will be more effective on stage and raise the stakes. 

Natasha x

BLACK WOMEN DATING WHITE MEN was performed in the Hollywood Fringe Festival online until the 12th July 2020.


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<![CDATA[In Conversation with Poet BilliePN]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/post/in-conversation-with-poet-billie-p-n5f0d394baedbdc0017178dfaTue, 14 Jul 2020 09:16:48 GMTAmy Toledano

Billie – thanks so much for speaking to Within Her Words. How are you feeling?

Thank you so much for having me! How am I feeling? So much deeper than how am I! I’m surviving as best I can during these crazy times. I’m doing my best to feel hopeful! Excited to chat to you about my favourite subject – me.

How did you get involved in poetry and spoken word?

I’ve always loved writing in all its forms, be it stories, diaries, whatever. Realistically mostly oversharing on social media. I started writing poetry just for myself when I was around 19. At the time, I was really inspired by the poetry I was seeing online on places like Tumblr - poetry by people who sounded like me. From there, it was just poem after poem in my notes app, and only really as a way to get things off my chest and to process how I was feeling. That kind of thing. What I realised is that no one is going to invite you to become a poet or a writer. There’s no club you become a member of. You just need to start! It took me years to get up on a stage and perform. I started out as an audience member at open mic nights I’d found online around 18 months ago, and finally I plucked up the courage to book a spot at That’s What She* Said in Shoreditch. It was the best first gig I could have hoped for - really warm and welcoming, lots of laughs! My only regret is I didn’t go for it sooner. From there, it’s been a mad whirlwind of amazing opportunities I’ve been given. I’m honestly so chuffed (and mildly baffled) about it.

Your poetry so often returns to themes such as womxn’s empowerment and body positivity. Do you consider feminism to be a driving force behind your art?

I really do, yeah. I think in 2020 you’re proper weird if you don’t consider yourself a feminist, and yet there are people out there who are still afraid of saying they are! I’m so inspired by so many powerful womxn, from my incredible family and friends, to the other amazing creatives I’ve met on this journey and the prominent figures out there doing the hard work. It’s these womxn who push me to keep going, lift me up, and help me put pen to paper. I fucking love being a womxn, I could talk about us all day. I think we’re great.

In my experience, there are so many times where I’ve told a story about something that’s happened to me, and the men in the room are just unable to comprehend that experience. They have no point of reference for the harassment we get when we’re out, the feeling of carrying keys between your fingers on your walk home, the weight of expectation on you to be this carer and nurturer. So I speak up. I try not to shy away from the ugliness of it, and I find great power in that.

I know there’s so far to go in terms of womxn’s rights. That’s why we can’t take our foot off the gas. We need to push our art further, amplify unheard voices and acknowledge intersectionality to really make change. My experience as a white-passing mixed heritage womxn is completely different to that of womxn of colour and it’s SO important for us to listen and learn and change. That’s what I’ve been trying to do throughout the recent Black Lives Matter protests. We’re living through a movement right now and that’s what I think feminism should look like. Growth.

Your poetry often deals with difficult issues but in a really entertaining and funny way. How do you find the performance aspect of your work and have you found your performances have evolved as you’ve grown in spoken word?

Well firstly thanks! Every time someone says I’m funny I have a tiny little brain orgasm so I appreciate it. I think the performance element of spoken word poetry is huge for me. I come from this theatre-y background which I think has massively influenced the way I perform. I try to make everything believable. I want people to come on the journey with me and I think creating that believable presence on stage is a big part of that. I am also a massive show off so I find it comes naturally to be a bit of a tit for a laugh.

In terms of evolving - my performance style has remained the same but what has changed is my confidence. I feel brave enough to make big bold choices when I’m on stage now, and knowing the material and feeling comfortable in your poetry-skin is a huge part of that.

You’re an active performer in the spoken word scene across London. What do you think of London’s spoken word scene and where do you hope to see it go in future?

I honestly feel insanely lucky to be a part of the London poetry scene. It’s so joyful and diverse and supportive. There are so many amazing poets out there who I admire greatly, and I think the scene really pushes me to be better. I see someone amazing at a night and I think, damn I wish I wrote that – the most creatively frustrating and yet encouraging feeling ever. People are free to express themselves exactly as they want to. I just hope that after this awful time the scene is able to get back on its feet again. The lack of funding in the arts up until now has been abysmal. The amazing small independent venues that so many of our nights are hosted at will struggle massively without a surge of support very soon. I’d love to see more professional opportunities for more of us, nights paying feature artists as a standard, more people having access to publishing, but for now I just hope we get to go back to doing what we love!

What advice would you give to people who might want to get involved in poetry and spoken word whether it is as a fan or a performer?

As a fan, I would recommend treating the spoken word scene as this giant buffet table. Like crab sticks? Great, here are crab sticks. More of a samosa gal? No worries, we have those too. There is so much to choose from here, nights which amplify voices that appeal to you, nights that are laid back and informal, nights that are competitive and fast paced. Try it all out. See what tickles your fancy, and remember everyone is genuinely happy to see you there. There are so many nights I recommend: Rise Up, BYOB, Mind Over Matter, That’s What She* Said, Rebel Soapbox and Chocolate Poetry Club to name only a handful! And of course, go listen to Word Spoken Podcast to get a feel for the scene and all the insider info on what’s going on!

As a performer, just bloody go for it! Which is such obvious advice but that was my main blocker in my mind when I was starting out. I felt like this huge imposter, like someone was going to figure out sooner or later that I wasn’t part of whatever secret spoken word guild everyone else was in! There is no one else who sounds like you, who has experienced life as you. That’s magical, and you have a voice and a story to tell. Yeah, just go for it man. Don’t let anything get in your way.

How have you seen poetry and spoken word in London evolve amid the COVID-19 pandemic? What do you think the scene might have learnt from its time in lockdown?

The move to online poetry nights was almost instantaneous! Right off the bat a lot of the nights we go to regularly were like right how do we move this online and keep this energy? It was really comforting. I, and I think a lot of people, were really trying and carry on as normal. It’s opened up doors to places we’d never have found had it not been for lockdown. There’s been so much collaboration with artists from around the world which has been awesome to see.

I can’t speak for everyone but for me it’s just given me such a huge appreciation for what we have here in London. The electricity of being in a room full of creative people bouncing their ideas off each other and inspiring each other is like nothing else! Feel like pure shit just want live poetry back x (Insert crying snapchat kid).

Am I right in thinking you might be hosting your own night after lockdown?

There might have been some talks with two of my lovely poetry pals, Henry (@Wordspokenpodcast) and Aiz (@Aizzzofficial) about setting up a night under the Word Spoken umbrella which we’re pretty excited about. It’s all TBC with everything going on right now, but I think people will be super keen to get back out there and experience live spoken word as soon as it’s safe to do so. And it’d be amazing to be at the forefront of that, making sure that there’s a place for people to go! Keep your eyes peeled and fingers crossed for us!

Any other plans for future projects whether it’s virtual/in lockdown, or once we’re all allowed out again?

I’ve been taking this forced break as a bit of down time. There have been some really fun bits and bobs I’ve been asked to do in lockdown that I’ve really enjoyed but mostly I’ve been keeping my head down. I’ve been reading other people’s work and reflecting a lot which I always find really helps my lil brain when it feels tired and overwhelmed. Even though I’ve been quiet lately I’m starting the process of poking my head above the parapet to see what’s going on out there. I’m hoping to record some content over the coming weeks but it’s also important not to put loads of pressure on yourself. I never want to sound insincere or not like me. I’m taking each day as it comes and really leaning into the fact that we don’t have a lot of control over external events! As soon as we’re allowed back out safely, you will 100000% catch me arsing around onstage at the earliest possible opportunity, and I cannot fucking wait! And hopefully working with video producers to get some quality video content out there. So if COVID could just fuck off now that would be great!

Thank you so much for talking to me and I look forward to seeing you back on stage soon!

Thank you, Within Her Words! What a lovely natter. I can’t wait to see everyone back performing!

Leah x


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<![CDATA[JOAN presented by by Cressida Peever]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/post/joan-presented-by-by-cressida-peever5edcb23b61048b001769ba56Tue, 09 Jun 2020 09:26:28 GMTAmy Toledano

What Is It?

JOAN is a brand new audio drama written by Cressida Peever, directed by Katharine Farmer and performed by Stephanie Booth.

What Is It About?

JOAN follows the young titular character as she strives to make her mark on the world and change it for the better. But the stresses of school and the fear of failing to gain entry into Oxbridge loom large in Joan’s loftily ambitious life, and when her plans to visit Oxford University are scuppered by her Mum’s diagnosis of high blood pressure, her dreams seem even more remote. Yet, everything changes after Joan posts on TikTok about her Mother’s never ending schedule of cooking, cleaning and caring, the majority of which goes unpaid. The post goes viral, and Joan is pulled into the debate of unequal pay and the gender disparities around domestic work and familial care, propelling her into the world of social and political activism. But as her dreams of changing the world begin to come true, her relationship with her Mother becomes strained and fractured, leaving Joan with some tough decisions to make.

How Did It Make Me Feel?

The inherent powerlessness that has come with this pandemic is something that powerfully resonants within this audio drama. Across the globe, we find ourselves in a situation we cannot control, and while the theatre industry suffers under the financial pressures this crisis has brought in its wake, artists are still finding unique ways in which to create and share their work in an accessible way through these socially distanced times. JOAN achieves these creative feats with assured confidence.

This is a well conceived adaptation from a live stage performance to a recorded audio performance. The sound design by Writer Cressida Peever and Director Katharine Farmer strongly evokes the settings and atmosphere of the piece with precision while Stephanie Booth’s performance is both arresting and impactful. Booth brings Joan’s inner turmoil to life with conviction and clarity, defining Joan’s distinctive voice through a carefully crafted performance.

However, while Joan is a somewhat relatable and well intentioned young figure, the play falls short of allowing any intensive exploration of the subject matter it intends to examine. The intersectionality between class, race and gender are left somewhat unaddressed with regards to the re-evaluation of under or unpaid domestic work, causing Joan’s movement to seem somewhat one dimensional and simplistic. Though Joan is pulled into activism via her Mother’s experiences of being an overworked single mother, the bond between these two women is never given the weight it needs for the play’s final moments to land with emotional resonance. Not enough time is afforded for the emotional and political depths of this piece to really take root, and while it is an enjoyable hour of entertainment which does provoke some thought, it needs to be given more time to give JOAN’s subject matter the attention it deserves.

Anything Else?

An enjoyable piece of audio drama in these troubling times, but one that does not quite hit home with the political resonance it intends.

Alexandra x

JOAN is available on Apple Podcasts now.


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<![CDATA[The House Never Wins presented by Turtle Key Arts]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/post/the-house-never-wins-presented-by-turtle-key-arts5eca1aeeb167f20017b0cf88Sun, 24 May 2020 07:58:19 GMTAmy Toledano

What is it?

Kill the Cat Theatre Company’s latest show, this time an interactive gambling fiesta through Zoom and your phone. The piece runs at between 75-90 minutes based on the choices that are made by the audience separately and as a collective entity and there is a real cash prize (£10) for the lucky winner in this theatrical casino.

What is it about?

The House (fictional zoom casino in which the Dealer operates) begins at full capacity of 100% at the start of the piece. Throughout the show you are asked to bet your chips and donate them to keep said ‘House’ from crumbling. The power is in your hands and you are left playing with the Dealer games of Blackjack with certain twists and rules that are made up to really get you thinking about your footprint on the world and for others around you. There are images, quizzes, tests and text sent privately through your phone throughout the night to take part of too until the lucky winner is decided or the house falls.

How did it make me feel?

For me, this was a really imaginative and ambitious piece, one that I’d like to see more of in lockdown. I’m not the biggest fan of the streaming alternatives being put out currently (nothing compares to the real thing) but this was a totally different angle at live theatre. It accounts for inevitable technical failures, accidental mute buttons and let’s you sit and enjoy/be part of an event first hand with a glass of wine or whatever you choose from the comfort of your own home.

Where is it playing?

Zoom is the place to be at the moment it seems, and with this run sadly finishing Sat 23rd May but there will be more from Kill the Cat either with a reincarnation of this or a new production. They are now definitely on my radar for the future.

Anything else?

Less a show and more of an event I’d say. If you’re looking for more of the traditional alternatives to theatre in this uncertain time we find ourselves in then maybe this isn’t the place for you. However, for those of you that can good entertainment, and if you ask me the best interactive/online virtual experience I’ve seen since lockdown then this totally fits the bill. There’s real games of blackjack, betting and staking, apple bobbing, forfeit shots, whatsapp quizzes the lot that you can take part in as much or little as you feel.

Sophie x

The House Never Wins was performed via Zoom, until the 23rd May 2020.


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<![CDATA[Performance Live: The Way Out, aired on BBC FOUR & presented by Battersea Arts Centre]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/post/performance-live-the-way-out-aired-on-bbc-four-presented-by-battersea-arts-centre5ec76daa25819f0017083904Fri, 22 May 2020 06:41:42 GMTAmy Toledano

What is it?

Performance Live is a series of works from a wide spectrum of exciting artists. From poetry and comedy, to dance and drama, The Way Out is the latest addition to this exciting and experimental series. Directed by Suri Krishnamma, The Way Out features a number of powerful performance works.

What is it about?

An Outsider, played by Blaithin Mac Gabhann, is trying to escape the rain and stumbles into a seemingly deserted Battersea Arts Centre. She is greeted by the Guide, played by Omid Djalili, and they explore the building, weaving through stairways and corridors. Along the way, they meet a number of performers. Revolving around the search for exits and doorways and meanings, this journey takes the viewer through the entire building in a way you have never seen it before.

How did it make me feel?

An ethereal, bizarre and amusing triumph showing the Battersea Arts Centre and it’s programme in its finest. If you have ever been to this mosaicked relic of a building, even once, you will have a great sense of the atmosphere of the place - vintage, experimental, rough around the edges. 

This 42 minute exploration through the corridors, stairways and performance spaces of the BAC features spoken word, movement, music and monologue amid a darkened yet serenely lit building. The individual performers that we meet along the way are flawless in their delivery - the true highlights are the appearance of dance-innovator Botis Seva with his piece Quick Sand, and Le Gateau Chocolat draped in gauze and hidden away in the rafters of the building with a hypnotising string trio in Liminal.

Omid Djalili provides an excellent framework for the film as the masterful and mysterious Guide, who leads the Outsider forward into the depths of the building. Also taking on a role of writer for the piece, Djalili is as poetic as he is powerful. The viewer is swept along as much by the single continuous shot in which the piece was filmed, as it is by Djalili’s Guide. Like a promenade performance from a distance, Djalili delivers you from start to finish in one motion.

The surreal showcase also includes hauntingly beautiful spoken-word poetry from Sanah Ahsanand, with Come As You Are, and Caleb Femi, performing Gentle Youth. The evening is given a celebratory and uplifting note by the acrobatics, movement and musical stylings of The Cocoa Butter Club.

Where is it playing?

The Way Out is available to view on demand via BBC iPlayer.

Anything else?

This performance gives hope and anticipation to the future of independent, experimental theatre and performance. It is a reminder of the rich variety of talent that exists in the UK and beyond, and I certainly can’t wait for theatre to return.

Emma x

The Way Out is streaming now on demand on BBC iPlayer.


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<![CDATA[Wasted presented by Southwark Playhouse, #SouthwarkStayhouse]]>https://www.withinherwords.co.uk/post/wasted-presented-by-southwark-playhouse-southwarkstayhouse5eab8df4e3e51c0017fde9f9Fri, 01 May 2020 03:02:13 GMTAmy Toledano

What Is It?

A rock musical about the Brontes.

What Is It About?

The Bronte siblings from childhood to death, as they attempt to follow their artistic - and romantic - ambitions. There is an inherent conceptual problem in the choice to show us everything, in chronological order. It makes it plodding, and unclear why we’re being told this story. This production chooses to emphasise that these were women (and a man, although poor Branwell is a bit of dead weight) who defied the roles allocated to them. It then allows the rock musical form to do all of the heavy lifting in making this point, and is otherwise dramaturgically lazy in organising the narrative in a way which encourages us to recognise the Brontes as the pioneers they were, rather than the mewling children this production makes them out to be.

How Did It Make Me Feel?

The first 20 minutes or so are spent with the four siblings howling about how they’re ‘stuck in Howarth’, which is confusing as Howarth seems great; they have microphones and a rock band and are a few degrees away from a slut-drop. I jest, but this production takes far too long to give us any sense of who these people are as individuals and therefore why we should feel any inclination to take them out of Yorkshire and let them loose on the rest of the world. Yes, the Brontes are famous, but if you’re going to make us bed down with them for a couple of hours, then you need to let us see them as people rather than a historical movement. Once a more introspective tone kicks in, the musical finally feels like it’s trying to tell us a story; there’s a tender duet between Charlotte and Bramwell about their respective broken hearts, and an evocative, albeit brief, scene when Charlotte and Anne take a train to the seaside.

The strongest song by a Yorkshire mile is the one where Charlotte writes her masterpiece (it’s also preceded by one of the show’s best lines: ‘Fuck off, I’m writing Jane Eyre’). The song works because it’s active - Charlotte is discovering her story in the moment, and the writing of the novel comes, in the way it’s told in this production, as a direct emotional response to her sense of injustice at her first book being turned down by a publisher. Many of the songs are good fun and others beautiful, but they tend to be far more expositional and therefore static, so it feels like we’re being presented with a musical concept rather than a narrative.

Cultural portrayals of the Brontes often resort to giving them capsule personalities, which here they don’t escape. Poor Anne, portrayed as the daffy child. Poor Branwell, presented here neither as an equal character, worthy of investing in, nor an oppositional force. (There’s also a bizarre posthumous debrief from Branwell in which he and Charlotte have an inflammatory argument about the privileges afforded to him due to his gender, despite their relationship having been blandly genial up until that point.) And poor, poor Emily, who is done a major disservice in this production by being characterised somewhere in between a werewolf and Kate Bush on coke. I found her descent into something akin to depression a truly distasteful depiction of poor mental health. I don’t mean to overlook the fact that this has clearly been written with a sense of fun rather than reverence, and musicals are necessarily larger - and more superficial - than life, but the story arc asks us for an emotional investment which the characters simply don’t earn.

Charlotte gets off the best; it initially seems she might be relegated to a dull narrator’s role as ‘the sensible one’, but Natasha J. Barnes’ fierce and intelligently sensual portrayal lifts her into somebody who we can conceivably believe is capable of writing a work of fiction still read 200 years later. It’s her emotional journey which ultimately succeeds in hooking us in the second half; it’s a shame that the production doesn’t seem to have worked out its own story earlier.

Anything Else?

I haven’t given this a star rating, as it feels pointless so long after the original production, and it doesn’t seem fair given I was viewing it through a medium it wasn’t designed for. The show divided critics at the time; it garnered a crop of 4 star reviews as well as a thudding 1 star from The Times. I can imagine there are generational factors at play. Yet I wonder whether the show’s battering-ram depiction of Emily and, by implication, mental health, would thin that divide now. Either way, I reckon that the less respect you have for the Brontes before you watch this, the more you’ll enjoy it.

Grace AK x

Wasted is streaming for free now on as a part of #SouthwarkStayhouse and can be viewed on the Southwark Playhouse website now.


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