Review – ‘The Hartlepool Monkey’ – Gyre & Gimble

This review by Emily Holyoake was originally published at Exeunt Magazine on 10 November 2017.

THE HARTLEPOOL MONKEY by Carl Grose
Presented by Gyre & Gimble and Fuel, in association with Stratford Circus Arts Centre

Directed by: Finn Caldwell and Toby Olié
Performed by: Rebecca Collingwood, Fred David, Jonathan Dryden Taylor, James Duke, Baker Mukasa, Rachel Sanders, and John Trindle
Produced by: Fuel

I’ve been to Hartlepool once, and it was the first thing that came up in conversation: “Have you ever heard the story of the monkey who was hanged?” A co-production between Gyre & Gimble and Fuel, The Hartlepool Monkey takes the unsettling local legend of a monkey mistaken for a French spy and turns it into a totally inspiring show which gets just about everything right. At the risk of sounding a bit X Factor, it’s easily my favourite performance of the year.

Actually, it’s the kind of show that makes you start saying stuff like ‘it was so much better than I thought it was going to be/than it needed to be’, because it’s unashamedly designed to work for the whole family, which tends to make us grown-up theatregoers fall into the trap of expecting something…simpler? Smaller? Sillier? The Hartlepool Monkey definitely makes me nostalgic for my childhood experiences of going to the theatre, but only because it’s been so damn long since I saw something which feels this overwhelmingly exciting to watch. I want to be able to look at five things happening onstage at once. I want to laugh louder and less politely and I want to cry at the end. I want to see it again.

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Review – ‘The Way I Look’ – O&O

This review by Emily Holyoake was originally published at Exeunt Magazine on 31 October 2017.

THE WAY I LOOK by O&O

Performed by: Alex Devine, Tessa Gaukroger, Roland George Harrad, Oliver J Harris, Marina O’Shea, Emerson Pike
Directed by: Igne Barkauskaite
Technical Manager: Alex Hoyle

Sam would like to introduce us to Mark – a facial birthmark that’s been their constant companion since birth, and something which they’re only just ready to talk about. Using ‘Sam’ as a common character which each performer can step into, The Way I Look is a whistle-stop tour of the realities of looking different.

There isn’t a weak link in this ensemble. Each performer slips easily into Sam’s story with their own particular style, but each always seems comfortably in tandem with the others. There’s a practised, end-of-tour ease as they pull the threads of the show together, and the tone shifts confidently through direct address, light-touch comedy, and more abstract moments of physicality and vocalisation. The Way I Look has a wholeness to it, an understatedly well-constructed script, and a real sense of stagecraft in the thoughtful use of space and set. I can do without the clutter of books and mugs to set some of the scenes – the performers are too good to need them – but the playful use of picture frames appeals directly to the first-year Drama student in me who still absolutely loves seeing a show about looking with literal framing devices in it.

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Review – ‘Happiness Ltd’ – New Model Theatre

This review by Emily Holyoake was originally published at Exeunt Magazine on 20 October 2017.

HAPPINESS LTD by Tom Nicholas
Produced by New Model Theatre and The Bike Shed Theatre, in association with Theatre Royal Plymouth and Salisbury Playhouse

Performed by: Rebecca Jade Hammond, Lloyd Notice, Liam Salmon, Gabrielle Sheppard
Directed by: Jo Newman

Designer: Tomasin Cuthbert
Sound and Music: Chris Menes
Producer: Emily Souter Johnson

For a play set in the niche world of indie game development, Happiness Ltd feels comfortingly familiar. Game designer Vi (Gabrielle Sheppard) goes through a break-up which rocks her sense of self, so she invents a game to cope, celebrating small achievements like eating a proper meal or getting up on time. Her best friend and coder Tyler (Liam Salmon) turns Vi’s idea into an augmented reality app, which is quickly backed by a large company. Success puts a strain on their friendship. The corporate backers push for an unethical marketing strategy. And Vi, who should be on the rise, finds she’s still falling apart. It’s a small-scale, contemporary rags-to-riches story with big ideas.

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Review – ‘The Comedy of Errors’ – Exeter Northcott Theatre Graduate Company

This review by Emily Holyoake was originally published at Exeunt Magazine on 25 July 2017.

THE COMEDY OF ERRORS
Presented by Exeter Northcott Theatre
Saturday 22 July 2017, Rougemont Gardens, Exeter

Performed by: Martin Bassindale, Katriona Brown, Ella Dunlop, Grace Hussey-Burd, Lucy May Rothwell, Jennifer Ruth-Adams, Tanwyn Smith Meek, Alex York
Directed by: Poppy Burton Morgan

“Is this a twin one? Is it the double twin one? Is it one with a shipwreck?”

There’s not a lot to the story of The Comedy of Errors. As we munch through our picnic on a chilly Saturday evening in Exeter’s Rougemont Gardens, one of my friends describes it as a ‘two line plot’. Two sets of twins – the brothers Antipholus and their servants, the brothers Dromio – get mistaken for each other, as can often happen when you give both of your twin sons the same name. Comedy and mayhem ensue, reunion scene at the end. A standard but smart choice for an open-air show, since there’s very little fear that the audience won’t be able to keep up if they’re distracted by rain/other members of the public/aforementioned picnics. You can throw literally anything at The Comedy of Errors – fire spinning, beam walking, knife throwing – the whole circus.

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Review – ‘Give Me Your Skin’ – Oonagh Murphy and Tom Ross-Williams

This review by Emily Holyoake was originally published at Exeunt Magazine on 30 June 2017.

GIVE ME YOUR SKIN
Written and performed by Oonagh Murphy and Tom Ross-Williams
Also performed by Kieton Brown-Saunders
Dramaturg: Lucy Wray

My partner and I talked about Give Me Your Skin for a solid hour after we left The Boat Shed, which in itself should qualify Tom Ross-Williams and Oonagh Murphy’s engagingly rebellious show as a success. The show covers an immense amount of ground in a short space of time; every angle you turn it, something glittery and new is revealed. This is a shotgun approach to smashing the patriarchy, a broad scattering of gameshow-style contests, personal anecdotes, musical theatre, conspiracy theories, manifestos, confessions, and arguments.

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13 Reasons Why: A Conversation with Emily Holyoake

My sister, Jessica, and I had a sit down recently to chat through all of our various ~feelings about 13 Reasons Why. Original post below on Jess’s blog, Lovely Little Lighthouse.

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Lovely Little Lighthouse

It seems like this has been a long time coming, my sister and I have had numerous conversations about 13 Reasons Why, so we thought we would sit down and record one of our discussions. Spoiler alert: we’re not huge fans.

Why did you watch 13 Reasons Why?

Jess: I’m just obsessed with Netflix, to be honest, and everyone was banging on about it.

Emily: This wasn’t one where people started saying ‘you have to watch this’ and I resisted it, because I usually do – I still haven’t watched Stranger Things, it took me about three years to watch House of Cards. But for some reason, 13 Reasons Why looked like it would be my sort of thing. And I think as well, I saw a lot of people saying ‘it’s so important’, ‘everyone must watch this’, and it looked like it had some sort of…

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Review – ‘The North! The North!’ – Chris Harrisson

This piece by Emily Holyoake was originally published at Exeunt Magazine on 9 May 2017.

THE NORTH! THE NORTH!
Written and performed by Chris Harrisson
Saturday 6 May 2017, The Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter

Chris Harrisson describes The North! The North! as ‘Extra-Live’, and in the aftermath I’m still getting to grips with what this means. He writes that extra-live is a continuation of the thought process behind staging relaxed performances, which are designed to be accessible to everyone. But although it’s definitely accessible, ‘relaxed’ isn’t the right word to describe the experience of watching The North! The North! – it feels anything but safe.

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