Elevator Festival and BalletBoyz

Two shows in two nights for me this week. First off was my first trip to this year’s Elevator Festival at Live Theatre. Offering a mix of “new plays by rising talent” and talks about the state of the industry (including the future of playwrighting, and the role of women and the state working class representation on stage) – most of it very reasonably priced – it unfortunately runs the two weeks I am busiest in the year, so I’ve had to limit my attendance to a couple of shows.

One of these was Matthew Greenhough’s solo show about two young men whose friendship is torn apart by their opposing political beliefs over Brexit, It’ll Be Alt-Right on the Night. A sharp and funny piece, I enjoyed it, though it needed a little more polish in its performance.

Second up was Them/Us at Northern Stage, which was the epitome of polished, and which even I enjoyed, newbie to dance as I am. A performance that was particularly strong on the idea of male-on-male tenderness – something you don’t often see on stage – it was actually very moving even if I only had the vaguest idea of what was going on.

Since I was out with Young People (we met one of my companion’s friends at Northern Stage), we even went for drinks afterwards – at 10pm! on a Friday! Who even am I? – and ended up at a bar that is new to me, Alvinos. Apparently they do good cocktails, though I was sticking to wine as I was already pretty squooshed, and with 3 floors it’s deceptively large. We scored a place on the outside terrace upstairs and enjoyed some serious putting the world to rights before I staggered into a taxi outside and made my way home.

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The Shy Manifesto at Live Theatre

Another week, another show – and last night was off to see one-man show The Shy Manifesto at Live. To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of the show – though I suspect, to be fair, I am not the target audience. Young actor Theo Ancient put in a sterling performance, but I felt too old and too working class to be that engrossed in the self-dramatising dilemmas of some (semi)posh white boy, and it seemed a bit of an odd fit for Live. Still, there were a decent amount of laughs, and it was short, which is one of my favourite things for a play to be…

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Live Theatre New Season Launch

Last night’s visit to Live Theatre started with more drama than I would have liked. All the Metros were off, so Heworth Metro was in chaos as people desperately tried to get on a bus or find a taxi (ah, it was like being back in London!). The situation was made worse by the fact that a young man had been taken very ill, and when I arrived was lying on the floor of the station in what looked to be a state of semi-consciousness, so the Metro staff were not only having to contend with lots of commuters trying to figure out how to get home, but the disruption of an ambulance arriving and a medical emergency. (Props to them for managing, and doing so with politeness and sensitivity. At one point I heard one of the staff gently ask the fallen man, “Is there a girlfriend or a boyfriend we could call for you?” No weighted pause between the two options, as if the latter might be some reluctantly acknowledged choice. It occurred to me, fleetingly, that it is in tiny gestures of inclusion and kindness like this that the world is saved.)

Eventually, I managed to get a taxi, and made my way to the New Season Launch at Live Theatre. Drinks and food in the Undercroft were followed by a presentation by AD Joe Douglas on the coming season, which is packed full of goodies.

We were treated to a snippet from one of the plays in the upcoming Elevator festival, W*nk Buddies (asterisk theirs), the title of which caused much hilarity, and some music and discussions. Local lad Kema Sikazwe, a charismatic young performer, did a rap from his upcoming show Shine, about his search to reconcile his sometimes-conflicting heritage (he was born in Zambia, but raised from early childhood in Newcastle). At the other end of the age scale (I’m sure they won’t be offended for me saying that!), two former members of Lindisfarne celebrated the return of last season’s hit Clear White Light with a couple of songs. Live Theatre’s Writer in Residence Chinonyerem Odima read an extract from her new show Princess & The Hustler (a show she winningly described as based not only in politics but “Black Girl Joy – which I don’t see enough of”). She also talked about the project she is doing with Northumbria University students, Land: Beating the Bounds, which comes to the theatre in May, and two terrifyingly confident* members of Live Youth Theatre talked about the programme’s 21st birthday celebration, Turning Point.

(*Young people scare me. I am Officially Old).

Overall, the coming season has much to be excited about. Following Approaching Empty, which comes to Live fresh from the Kiln in February, the ‘big’ shows are a mix of smart revivals – such as The Cheviot, The Stag and The Black, Black Oil, a play Douglas had a big hit with when he was working in Scotland – and new writing (Princess, Shine). There are some on-the-pulse political pieces: DUPed, about Ian Paisley and the DUP, is sadly more relevant than you would want it to be; and Locker Room Talk puts a fresh spin on gendered politics.

Douglas said that, alongside politics, which is baked into the bricks of Live Theatre, one of the season’s themes was ‘growing up’. Fitting neatly into this are teen comedy Drip, and feminist piece Ask Me Anything, for which we have been promised the theatre will be transformed into a teenage girl’s bedroom, while #BeMoreMartyn: The Boy with the Deidre Tattoo, by Hope Theatre (who did the well-received Gypsy Queen) looks at a young life cut short, celebrating Manchester Arena bombing victim Martyn Hett.

One of the things I am most keen to see was It’s True, It’s True, It’s True. This got fantastic reviews at the Fringe and when I tweeted about it last night produced a flurry of excitement on Twitter – it’s great to see shows which did well at the Fringe not only get another bite at the cherry, but tour further than the London-Edinburgh nexus which is all too common.

So – all in all, lots to be excited about. You can check it all out here:

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Christmas Crackers at Live Theatre

My last theatre trip of the year was, somewhat fittingly, to one of the theatres I have spent most time in since I got here, Live Theatre. Christmas Crackers is a portmanteau show – 4 short plays by the theatre’s associate artists – and though it was patchy in places, with some overdone performances, there were flashes of really great writing in there, and overall I enjoyed the warm-heartedness of the piece. Read my review here – and Merry Christmas!

Festive entertainment at Live and Northern Stage

It’s been a busy work week for me, but I did manage to squeeze in some socialising (and shopping: I could have happily bought up the whole of Fenwick’s Christmas department…)

First up was A Christmas Carol at Northern Stage, a 20s set take on the story with a great jazz soundtrack. It took a little while to get going and was – as everything seems to be – a bit too long, but once it hit its stride it’s a delight of a show, with some really impressive physical theatre and I particularly enjoyed seeing a classic in my native accent. (Review here).

Next was Mixtape Xmas at Live Theatre. A raucous sorta pop quiz, I went with my friend L as a birthday celebration – although the show could have been much tighter, and some of the audience were frankly a bit twatty, it was good fun and for once my arcane knowledge of 80s and 90s pop lyrics came in handy…

don’t forget the birds at Live Theatre

Another week, another trip to Live! This time to see don’t forget the birds, a gorgeous wee play that centres around the relationship between a mother and daughter after the former gets out of prison. Based on a true story and featuring the real-like mother and daughter cast, it’s an absolute gem: catch it at Live or, London types, when it transfers to Battersea Arts Club.

Also it is an hour long, which you know I LOVE.

It’s Different for Girls – Live Theatre

Back at Live yesterday, as this is a culture heavy week for me. I had really high hopes for the play – an all-woman production – but it ended up being pretty frustrating on a number of levels (see my review here). That said, I’ve had a pretty good run at Live so the occasional disappointment is to be expected, I suppose… and it’s always worth a visit. I did get to see the Christmas lights in town, though…