Review – An Enemy of the People – Nottingham Playhouse

This review by Emily Holyoake was originally published by Exeunt Magazine on 20 September 2019.

In Nottingham Playhouse’s An Enemy of the People, Dr Stockmann asserts that she has truth on her side. I think about that well-worn catchphrase of right-wing online commentators: facts don’t care about your feelings.

Of course, when the so-called sceptics of the internet say it, they’re claiming that the facts are objective, and the truth doesn’t change just because there’s something at stake for an individual or a community. But in Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s new version of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, the truth – that the water flowing through the baths of a spa town is poisoned – is secondary to how people feel about it.

Played by Alex Kingston, Dr Stockmann believes that her proven report about the baths will be welcomed, and that she will be praised for averting a catastrophe. But her brother, the mayor (Malcolm Sinclair), tells her instead that a complete overhaul of the water supply is impossible, that it will cripple the town’s economy, and that he believes it’s unnecessary anyway. When Stockmann stands by her report, the mayor paints her as a fantasist and a traitor, and turns the town against her.

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Review – What Fatima Did… – Derby Theatre

It’s the start of a new school year, and a group of friends take the mick out of each other as they wait for their class to start. They’re also waiting on Fatima. They take bets on when she’ll finally arrive. We don’t see her when she does. We never see her, although we hear plenty about her – because when she comes back to school after the holidays, Fatima has decided, for the first time and without warning, to start wearing the hijab.

What Fatima Did… is the second show I’ve seen at Derby Theatre in the space of a few weeks which is rammed with teenagers and, putting aside the fact that it’s making me feel old, I just want to give some space here to celebrate the absolute bloody triumph of a team who seem to know who they want to get in the door and exactly how to do it. I’ve felt this at every in-house show at Derby Theatre since I moved back last February – whenever I settle into my seat and do a quick scan around, the auditorium always seems to be full of the people who will get the most out of that show, if you judge that by the audible, tangible, laughs-and-gasps engagement throughout the evening. Derby Theatre gets its audiences.

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Review – Flight Paths – Extant and Yellow Earth

This review by Emily Holyoake was originally published by Exeunt Magazine on 23 February 2019.

One of my first thoughts after coming out of Flight Paths is that it must’ve been a brilliant rehearsal process. A co-production between Extant and Yellow Earth (companies which centre the work of visually impaired and British East Asian artists, respectively), it’s a piece with a clear ethos of collaboration, showcasing aerial performance, spatialised tracking, music, projections, and integrated audio description. It also balances a lot of different narratives – the stories of the two onstage performers (Amelia Cavallo and Sarah Houbolt), audio testimony from two more (Takashi Kikuchi and Victoria Oruwari), a condensed history of the Goze (blind female storytellers and musicians who travelled medieval Japan), and all within the framework of the Japanese story of Hoichi. Layered doesn’t cover it.

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Review – Noughts & Crosses – Derby Theatre

This review by Emily Holyoake was originally published by Exeunt Magazine on 8 February 2019.

In Rosa, the episode Malorie Blackman wrote for last year’s series of Doctor Who, the TARDIS lands in 1950s Alabama at the height of racial segregation. Not long into the episode, one of the Doctor’s friends, Ryan, who is black, notices a white woman has dropped her glove, and tries to return it to her. The woman’s husband slaps him.

I think I went into Pilot Theatre’s production of Noughts & Crosses expecting a slap – that sudden shock of something hurtful, embarrassing, and true. But this version of Noughts & Crosses doesn’t slap you, it just pulls you deeper and deeper, wrapping you up in history and the present and how things are supposed to be.

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I went to Ruckus Retreat and was struck by lightning

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I wanted to blog about Ruckus Retreat as soon as I got back. I knew the longer I left it, the more it would feel like a dream. But here I am, a week later, waking up, struggling to keep hold of the lucid-flying-fantasy details of it all.

I’d never been on a retreat before Ruckus but I have been to conferences, workshops, festivals, masterclasses – the sorts of things you’re supposed to do as an ~emerging creative~ who’s taking their practice seriously and living a creative, art-driven life. For me, the most powerful takeaway from Ruckus is what that really means.

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The Party Somewhere Else

This feature by Emily Holyoake was originally published by Exeunt Magazine on 14 March 2018.



The Party Somewhere Else are a Nottingham-based collective of maverick female creatives who have just launched 
festival at Nottingham Playhouse. The group came together in early 2017 and hosted a sell-out scratch night that July, followed by a packed Open House/Open Mic in January 2018. The upcoming festival is set to be a playfully anarchic takeover of Nottingham Playhouse’s smaller upstairs spaces, and will showcase both regional and national artists, all performing work which centres the creative agency of women.

I meet with just over half of The Party Somewhere Else over two separate sessions, a couple of weeks before the festival beginsThere are 12 current members of the collective: Beth Shouler, Eleanor Field, Hannah Stone, Kate Webborn, Kath Akers, Minder Athwal, Nikki Disney, Olwen Davies, Rebecca D’Souza, Ria Ashcroft,Siobhán Cannon-Brownlie, and Tilly Branson. They cover a lot of bases, a team of producers, directors, actors, writers, designers, facilitators, and dramatherapists. It’s a group brought together by a shared frustration at the lack of representation for women, onstage and backstage.

“We were having conversations in twos and threes, and had been for about six months,” says Beth Shouler, a director and writer who has recently taken on the role of Artist Development Co-ordinator at Nottingham Playhouse. “And then we were like – you know what, we could just get together and have one conversation.”

Siobhán Cannon-Brownlie, a director and theatre-maker, says, “The Party Somewhere Else has grown out of us saying ‘this is missing’ in the theatre ecology here in Nottingham, let’s do something about that, and we’ll just do it ourselves cause we’re the ones who can.”

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Review – Doctor Faustus – Tangle Theatre

This review by Emily Holyoake was originally published by Exeunt Magazine on 23 February 2018.

DOCTOR FAUSTUS by Christopher Marlowe
Presented by Tangle Theatre at The Bike Shed Theatre, 21 February 2018

Performed by: Munashe Chirisa, Joshua Liburd, Mogali Masuku
Director: Anna Coombs
Designer: Colin Falconer
Lighting Design: Hansjorg Schmidt
Sound Design: Drew Baumohl
Composer and Arranger: John Pfumojena
Producer: Deborah Baddoo MBE

It’s the opening night of Tangle Theatre’s Doctor Faustus, and I’m about to have a really Faustian experience. I go in presuming intelligence, and come out realising my complete ignorance.

Is this a Faustian experience? I’m gonna Google it to check. Because I don’t really know Doctor Faustus, but I just sort of assume that since I’ve always been a Shakespeare brat and that one time I did Schiller, there can be no verse play that would pose a particular challenge to me.

It takes five minutes of discussion with my sister after the show for her to discover that I didn’t even grasp the basics.

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Review – Split Second – Documental Theatre

This review by Emily Holyoake was originally published by Exeunt Magazine on 26 January 2018.

SPLIT SECOND by Cally Hayes
Performed at The Bike Shed Theatre, 23 January 2018
Produced by Documental Theatre

Performed by: Charlie Coldfield and Georgia Fox Robinson
Directed by: Luke Jeffrey
Sound Design: Philip Robinson
Recorded by: Duncan Chave at Sound Gallery

Along the cobbled alleyway, down the stone steps, to the cellar bar decorated with curios and mismatched furniture. Towards the circle of comfy chairs snuggled into the far corner, welcomed by dimmed lights and the bright smile of playwright Cally Hayes. A chunky set of headphones each, which glow electric blue when we’re on the right channel and clamp down firmly around our ears. A thumbs up from Hayes – and we’re away.

Documental Theatre’s Split Second is a fifteen-minute radio play about a couple in crisis. They didn’t plan for a pregnancy, and now there might be something wrong with the baby. Overwhelmed by how their lives will change, they struggle to find common ground, shutting each other out but fighting to stay together. As with all of Documental Theatre’s work, the script is based on testimony and real stories, gently and sensitively fictionalised.

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Review – Humbug! – Wandering Tiger

This review by Emily Holyoake was originally published at Exeunt Magazine on 19 December 2017.

HUMBUG! by Wandering Tiger
Performed at St Nicholas Priory, Exeter

Performed by: Charlie Coldfield, Richard Feltham, Benjamin Akira Tallamy
Written and directed by: Luke Jeffrey
Magical Consultant: Peter Clifford
Costume Assistant/Designer: Anna Palma Balint

It’s a mark of how deeply ingrained the Muppets’ version is that if you mention A Christmas Carol to me, I’ll think about how Gonzo is here to tell the story (and Rizzo is here for the food). Wandering Tiger’s Humbug!, written and directed by Luke Jeffrey, is another in a long line of adaptations that takes creative license with the plot of Dickens’ ghost story. Most of the main beats are there, but adapted for a promenade production and for a cast of three, with Charlie Coldfield as Scrooge, and Richard Feltham and Benjamin Akira Tallamy as pretty much everyone else.

Coldfield is a grouchy yet earnest Scrooge, who sticks with the Michael Caine school of playing the straight man in an otherwise comic re-telling. But whilst Humbug! talks him up as the main concern of the plot, it often doesn’t feel like his story, and Coldfield isn’t given much space to really get going with the role. Instead, the show is absolutely stolen by Feltham and Tallamy and their charismatic, comic takes on the other characters. Tallamy in particular has a flair for improvisation and self-deprecating audience interaction, and his witty, idiosyncratic take on the Ghost of Christmas Present feels genuinely different from previous interpretations of the character. The show also gains much of its warmth from Tallamy’s original Christmas songs, which are a welcome departure from traditional Victorian dirges.

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Review – Journey to the Impossible – Little Soldier Productions

This review by Emily Holyoake was originally published at Exeunt Magazine on 16 December 2017.

JOURNEY TO THE IMPOSSIBLE by Little Soldier Productions, presented by The Bike Shed Theatre

Performed by: Dan Armstrong, Lucy Bishop, Duncan Cameron
Directed by: Mercè Ribot and Patricia Rodríguez
Producer: Bridget Floyer, Larking Arts
Written by: Mercè Ribot and Patricia Rodríguez in collaboration with Matt Harvey
Design: Sophia Clist
Sound design: Dan Lees
Music composed by Dan Lees, with additional content by Joe Darke and the company
Lighting design: Seth Rook Williams

If you’re tired of fairytales, fables, and Dickens adaptations, Little Soldier Productions’ Journey to the Impossible is a fun and unusual December alternative. It’s 1982, and three young friends looking for adventure find themselves transported to another dimension, to the strange and dangerous city of Vernopolis. They quickly find themselves separated and in trouble, and must fight to find their way home again.

Journey to the Impossible leans heavily on nostalgia to get the audience on side, and it’s chock-full of references to 80’s music, film, and trends – probably more than this 90’s child noticed if I’m honest about it. But what hits me as truly nostalgic about this show is how strongly it reminds me of those imaginary games you made up with your best friends on the playground, with the kind of storyline that’s impossible to explain to an outsider but that your friends just get implicitly. Those games where you’re a hero version of yourself, but sometimes you get to play the baddie too.

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