"Utterly consuming...an engulfing experience which will leave you feeling charged with emotion."
REVIEWS - click on the links to see the original on-line reviews
ANANSI AND THE GRAND PRIZE
"Watching this two-hour show was a pure joy. Full of energetic dancing, African drumming, soothing reggae and bouncing R&B beats, music was used to bring the performance to life by Omer Makessa, who was peacefully sat at the back of the stage throughout. This is a Bristol home-grown play, showcasing the amazing talent among our culturally diverse city. It is a play not to be missed - truly unique and unrivalled in its height of entertainment."
Anansi and The Grand Prize is anchored in entertainment, with caricatures, powerful dancing and the catchy songs, played live, which one generation above me can’t resist. They endeavour to create an atmosphere which laughs in the face of inhibitions and a sense of being truly present in the space. The sensory engagement and purposeful departure from existential or societal questioning are refreshing and revitalising. The directorial decision to have the cast frequently rally up, respond to and venture into the audience iterates the active and communal engagement Nick Young is aiming for. And within the intimate studio space, this may kindle a carefreeness that leads to some of the most humorous moments, due to the joy of spontaneity. However, whether the prospect of audience participation and carefree joyfulness is edging out of your comfort zone or a pleasant immersion back into it, Anansi and The Grand Prize was an evening of pure fun."
A Younger Theatre
"The Edge is a hugely ambitious show that has tackled a big topic with creativity and aplomb. The cast of young actors are fiercely talented and it’s a performance they should be rightly proud to have been a part of. That they are able to perform in this space with for a paid audience is a happy reminder that, at least for those in Bristol, there are plenty of other ways to showcase your talents outside of soul-sucking television programmes."
"The overwhelming merit of the show was the strong concept that backed it, the innovative use of space and the experiential interactive elements. You do not simply view The Edge, you become a member of its fictional universe, reevaluating what ‘entertainment’ truly is. It was certainly a unique theatrical experience put on by a fantastic organisation; it is wonderful to see such a large scale production created by so many talented young people."
PETER AND THE WOLF (AND ME)
Bath Fringe Festival review
Peter and the Wolf (and me) at the Rondo is genuinely a re-working of the piece, with a narrator and just one musician. Here the story is used as a jumping-off point for the narrator to tell his own story, of his childhood in the newly- independent Zimbabwe as the son of a white mother and a ‘coloured’ (the precise meaning of which term he explains vividly) Muslim step-father. The musician is African, playing African instruments, and occasionally comments on the action or offers advice to the narrator. He, Nicholas, is fond of the Prokofiev story, as is Mum, but he also loves Michael Jackson above other pop stars of the time. He takes us through his difficulties at school, his rough and tumble relationship with his best friend, and boyhood mischief with the animals and neighbours around him. All as ways of coping in the difficult and deteriorating conditions at home as step-dad goes further into alcoholism and violence, while his side of the family stay resolutely in denial of it (“He is a Muslim. Muslims don’t drink”). It is a story told without self-pity and with tremendous energy and vigour by a narrator who leaps and cavorts with the restless energy of the child trying to find his way in a baffling and dangerous world of adults.
John Christopher Wood
"The too-small audience was invited into the theatre to the accompaniment of low-volume guitar and humming. Before anyone could even concoct an excuse for talking or fidgeting, the play started. This level of controlled concentration persisted; we were spellbound.
Peter & the Wolf (and Me) is a two-hander where one hand tells, the other holds. One is mainly Nick, a boy full of movement, life and mischief, his life entwined with the story of ‘Peter and the Wolf’ (which he relates to the members of Mrs Batwell’s class at school). The other hand is a benevolent presence – an African man stationed among his authentic instruments on the stage, making music and sounds. What these two create together is the convincing story of a childhood, rendered in its own noise.
The landscape of the story is created from a pile of suitcases that conjures the sheer rock face that Nick and his friend Jerome used to climb, as well as Nick’s school desk and chair, occasionally his bedroom. Nick’s friends, his mother and stepfather are each represented (as in Prokofiev’s version) by different instruments or voices.
The production is powerful in its simplicity. The dynamic between the two performers allows us to focus absolutely on the boy’s experiences and reactions, and the delicately held tension never slackens. This play deserves a large crowd."
DIANA HEKT (Wildfire Magazine, Exeter Ignite Festival)
THE ITHACA AXIS:
" The Ithaca Axis, an immersive theatre production which reinterpreted Homer’s The Odyssey, tore through the streets of Bristol. Attendees were split into four groups – each following one main character. As luck would have it, I ended up chasing round the city with a rather handsome Telemachus, a mischievous Adonis and a brutally sardonic Paris. Their stunning costumes made a timely reference to Bowie, and added a sense of youthful decadence and rebellion. After having made our way through caves, witnessed a tearful reunion in a local pub and a raging maternal argument in Castle Park we ended up at the Trinity Arts Centre in Easton for a chest-tightening conclusion. During most of which I sat, rather unattractively, with my mouth agape. I’ve never been affected by a character’s pain in the way I was watching Heidi Dorschler’s Penelope. Having shared their city with them, I had become lost to their world and when it ended I was left disoriented and shaken." (www.upstairsthinking.com)
THE GUILD OF CHEESEMAKERS:
Exeunt Magazine As a dilemma, it’s one which dates back to Romantic tales like Frankenstein and Dracula, but by couching it in terms of modern-day foodie fetishism, Stand + Stare give it a pertinent twist. Far from merely being another piece of modish immersive theatre, The Guild of Cheesemakers lodges questions which cut to the quick of it: what price would you pay for more time on earth? Would you want to live forever anyway? Having lulled the audience into a false sense of security with all the talk of rind depth and other arcane cheese, wine and bread facts, Stand + Stare switch to an almost absurdly melodramatic sci-fi yarn before pitching up at this philosophical conundrum. In this particular instance, ‘the guild’ voted for mortality and cheered as the ‘meteorite’ went up in a puff of smoke.
"If the storyline turned out to be … well, a bit cheesy, the setting and staging of the Stand and Stare Collective’s contribution to this year’s Mayfest elevated a slice of sci-fi melodrama into something wholly unique. It’s not every day that theatre comes combined with a bona fide cheese, wine and bread tasting led by locally sourced experts, or that a gourmet event in grandiose ecclesiastical surroundings dissolves into an antic tale of betrayal and immortality." (Exeunt Critic's Picks of 2011)
THE LAMENTABLE TRAGEDY:
Guardian The great thing about this show is that it feels embedded in its surroundings and draws on the work of local artists. There are shadow puppet sideshows, icy trees dangling tarot cards and foetuses, opportunities for the audience to audition to be Charles's new leading lady, and wandering tricksters.
... This is ambitious and imaginative work. The best bits – including a wonderful, fragile sideshow scene in which a man voices a litany of regret as Rosie packs her case to leave – are genuinely thrilling. (Lyn Gardner, The Guardian)
"Another day, another piece of walkabout, site-specific, darkly-shaded performance..The Wonders have good form in this kind of thing, and their total takeover of the two-storied former City Motorcycles showroom in the heart of Stokes Croft is undeniably impressive: crucial to the evening’s insidious malevolence is pitch-perfect…the tragedy, when it arrives, is nothing short of a face-slapping icy blast of masterfully chilling stagecraft. Lamentable? Not a bit of it." **** Joe Spurgeon, The Venue (in print)
THE STATION (FOURSTONES):
'Hamilton created an imaginary world before us that we could really believe in. With practically no set he conjured his Grandfather’s attic full of jungle artefacts and expedition memorabilia, and Al’s wide-eyed discoveries were as clear to us as him. A great example of spellbinding storytelling.The story and acting were such that the audience was engaged and ready to accept what was presented, a message that Al himself hopes for: “I look only for your commitment, your belief… your trust in the fantastic.”
If you enjoy storytelling, the expanse of the imagination, and physical theatre, do go and see this wonderful production.'
A Younger Theatre
AT TETHER'S END:
British Theatre Guide. This is possibly the first show I have attended where our participation as audience members begins long before leaving the house. All ticket holders for At Tether's End are required to bring along a photograph of themselves plus someone or something they love; No photo, no entry threatens the website.
Herein lies the first decision to be made in this promenade and site-specific piece, orchestrated by Bristol's The Wonder Club, whose work unfolds along similar lines to Punchdrunk's, inviting you to wander freely and make your own choices about the story you follow. When we arrive at the Trinity Centre, a huge gothic-fronted church at one end of the Old Market, clutching a snapshot we took in Venice, not too personal, not too trite, we are presented with our second decision; an envelope containing the play's ending, not to be opened until afterwards. Its like a challenge: I follow the rules and leave the envelope sealed but wonder how many rebels chose this as their first step in creating their own story, as the performance invites.
What the piece also does is create a bizarre mish-mash of realism and unashamed artifice flirting with the thoroughly surreal. A whole street is present to be explored, with some of its offerings, such as The Three Horseshoes pub, so real you can kick back and buy a pint in it, but in which the landlord spends most of his time sat in a steel bathtub on the bar.
But perhaps the greatest coup in the show is pulled off by the harnessing together of the fractured threads at the end. What emerges somehow simultaneously makes sense and still shocks, largely to do with the victim of the piece, someone we have all noticed but probably passed by. This subtle heightening of tension makes for a climax in which you feel as if you have seen and felt something moving and real rather than just participating in an elaborate installation, and the opening of the final envelope has the quality of an epilogue.
Aside from pulling together an enormous team of artists and performers to execute the project, directors Michelle Roche and Nick Young have also pulled together a range of dramatic styles and modes of presentation in a piece which manages to feel fresh, entertaining, unsettling and extremely accessible.
Phone: (+44) 07533 633 308 Email: contactnickyoung[at]gmail.com