The world feels like a v crazy place right now, so it was good to be able to spend much of this week in the company of one of my favourite people. Dr F (that’s PhD doc – so much for my free corona virus advice!) was in town to meet some theatre folk, so we took advantage of her visit not just to drink and eat loads (look at this gorgeous bottle of gin she brought!) but to check out the start of Elevator Festival at Live Theatre – the theatre’s 5th annual celebration of new plays by up and coming creatives. I’ll be writing about this in more depth for Exeunt once I’ve seen everything I am seeing, but so far I have been really impressed.
Wednesday was a talk called ‘Northern Generic‘ bringing together 4 theatre practitioners to discuss stereotyping in the theatre world. Live’s Graeme Thompson chaired and the speakers were Adam Quayle, Luke Barnes, Amy Fisher and Caitlin Evans – who I met not long after I moved back to talk about her new project Shy Bairn and her show Talk Propa, which recently played to great reviews at the Vault Festival. It was an interesting discussion and, had I not been fecking starving, I would have happily carried it on in the bar afterwards, but instead Dr F and I decamped round the corner for pizza at Uno’s Trattoria (and very tasty pizza it was too!)
The next day we decided to eat before the show and had chips and halloumi at the Head of Steam (again, v nice), before heading for a double bill of solo shows, Last Seen Bensham Road and Redcoat. I was predisposed to like Redcoat because I saw a short preview of it at the launch, but had less idea of what to expect of Bensham, though I had seen the actor / writer Samantha Neale in a couple of things already, and liked her.
As it turned out, I loved both. The festival programmed them in the right order (closing the evening with Redcoat so you could leave on a high), as Last Seen is a darker and much more emotional piece (although not without some smart laughs), about a single mother struggling to cope. Beautifully performed and sharply written by Neale and tightly directed by Holly Gallagher, it was moving and resonant.
Redcoat, in contrast, was just a straightforward delight. (In fact, so upbeat was it that I kept worrying it would go dark – so few shows have the confidence just to be straightforwardly joyful – and was enormously relieved when it resisted the temptation. It’s not without shade and nuance, but it resists being all Tears of a Clown about it.) Performed with charm and joie de vivre by Lewis Jobson (who also wrote it) and directed with energy by Melanie Rashbrook, it was the most fun I have had in the theatre in an age. Both run till the 14th, so do catch them if you can. (Don’t ask about the balloon sculpture. All will become clear.)
Alas the night took a slightly sour turn when I realised next morning I’d dropped my purse in the taxi (I’d like to at least say this was because we were roaring drunk and I was reliving my chaotic youth but, honestly, I’d only had 2 glasses of wine so was actually just knackered and clumsy). Since I’d just been to the cashpoint, I was a bit gutted by the loss, but hey, it’s a story… I’m sure I’ll laugh it off. Eventually.
Elevator Festival runs till the 21st and offers a great line up of new shows, talks and workshops. Check out the details here.