REMEMBER EDITH CAVELL

Today is the anniversary of the execution in Belgium of WW1 nurse Edith Cavell.

Image created by Dave Roberts which was shown as part of the HLF exhibition at St Martin In The Fields October 2015

Our HLF project BRUSSELS AT DAWN investigated her contribution to nursing and how she ended up in Belgium running a hospital, teaching nursing and why she was arrested for espionage.

Edith Cavell Window at St Olave’s                                            Image by Michael Cheetham

We worked with the Cavell Nurses Trust, The Royal London Hospital, The Florence Nightingale Museum, Belgian Edith Cavell Commemorative Group and the Royal College of Nursing to research this extraordinary woman’s life and her contribution to nursing.

We created a puppet show, exhibitions and have a series of films (including interviews with her descendant Dr Emma Cavell and author Diana Souhami), papers and resources created by both experts and community participants.

Edith Cavell Resources

Every year someone from Unity Arts lays a rose on the Edith Cavell statue in Trafalgar Square on her birthday – 4th December.

We never want her forgotten.

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****The Lesson by Eugene Ionesco – The Hope Theatre, London

7 + 1 is sometimes 9. Especially in the absurdist world of The Lesson by Eugene Ionesco (in a completely accessible translation by Donald Watson), playing at The Hope Theatre until 13 October. The satirisation of education, politics, language and psychology could not be more apposite. First shown in Paris in 1951 this seventy minute illustration of futility still bites. Hard.The evening begins with us walking into a brilliant evocation of a mind in turmoil counterpointed by a cold, white centrepiece echoing a science lab or operating room. A beautifully envisioned and executed set by Designer Rachael Ryan. The Maid (Joan Potter) is steadfastly cleaning the table. An enthusiastic pupil (Sheetal Kapoor) visits The Professor (Roger Alborough) for a lesson. As in The Bald Soprano, Ionesco effectively uses the tools of repetition and circularity to parody the bourgeoisie’s need to repress and destroy the best in human nature. Instinctively we understand this which is why so many of us rebel at school. 
We know what is going to happen. Ionesco forces us into the uncomfortable role of complicit voyeur as we laugh (I did, often) at the ridiculous contradictions of reductive reasoning and he often jolts us into a realisation of our inescapable part in this appallingly nonsensical world. Ionesco is hard to pull off. His plays call for an understanding of the grotesque. Ruthlessly require technical excellence, truthful performances and perfect timing. As soon as Roger Alborough, playing The Professor, entered, I knew we were in very safe hands. A completely stunning performance. Alborough just ate up those meaningless monologues that are such a bitch to learn.

His handling of Ionesco’s many idiotic phrases and comic asides, absolutely pitch perfect. Energy pumping out of every pore. What an absolute treat to see acting of that calibre up so close. If he does not win an award for this fantastic portrayal I will eat my socks and the ear of a coat button.
I would have preferred The Pupil to have been played in the upper teens but given the powerhouse she was working with Sheetal Kapoor more than pulled her weight and Joan Potter wrung a laugh out of every line she had.  Again Potter, like Alborough, knew how to hold a beat. Played the rhythm of every line to a tee. Excellent.
Matthew Parker is a complete star. He has often been bold in his programming at The Hope and his in-house productions have been enormously successful. In making the choice to produce an Ionesco play he has taken a huge leap of faith. Cannily he has surrounded himself with great Creatives (I must also mention the clever and creepy Sound Design by Simon Arrowsmith).
Fringe Theatre is where all the apathy busting and challenging theatre is happening and I wish Parker and his very talented team every success. In an era where we are numbed by tepid clichés and slogans this was a breath of icy, harsh air. Highly recommended.

Oscar Ciros is a playwright, director and clown.

Playing at The Hope Theatre until 13 October

Photos by LH Photography

The Lesson at The Hope Theatre

****Sister Mary’s Playtime – Edinburgh Preview LONDON by Lil Warren

Reviewers should never mention topics outwith the artists’ control. The journey, the seats, the stairs or the toilets nor the TEMPERATURE but……they do.

I mention the heat here because Tim McArthur, who shared his new show Sister Mary’s Playtime, in preview, at the Arts Theatre Upstairs, Leicester Square performed in a complete nun’s habit. Feet bedecked in taps.  For over an hour. At FULL THROTTLE and in FULL VOICE! We, however, could barely pick up our gin and tonics.

The audience members were perspiring as if in a Tennessee Williams revival in Arizona. So moist, they were even beyond wiping away the glistening sweat beading lip and brow and well, everywhere.

We were eventually cajoled out of our seats for the opening “prayer” and were galvanised enough to join in the Hand-BAG! Freezer-BAG! Ball-BAG! shout-along.

This fantastic sing-a-long, do actions-a-long, shriek-a-long is supported by the deliciously wonderful Brother Mathew on the ivories and even the little timing glitches that we expect in preview, dare I say it, were greeted warmly by a now noisy and appreciative audience.

I particularly enjoyed the “interview” segment at the end of the show, McArthur is a skilled and highly entertaining interviewer, allowing guests to make us laugh too.  And the surprise guest was astoundingly good. (No spoiler alert here).

Sister Mary is outrageously rude, camp, cheeky with enough political bite to make someone (me) snort their beer and nearly choke. Expect audience participation, to be pulled up (not off) on stage and some sort of cake as a reward for joyously joining in with Musical Theatre faves that are just knocked out of the park by this fabulous performer. A perfect Edinburgh show!

TIM MCARTHUR

Playing in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 3-26 August 2018 @ 5pm

Frankenstein Pub, 26 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EN

Lil Warren is a writer and director, an  old Edinburgh Festival lag, and co-host on Free Seed on Soho Radio CULTURE CHANNEL.

 

SYON JANE by Isabel Walters

Queen Jane remains the only English monarch of the past five centuries for whom no genuine portrait is known to have survived. Dozens of images have been put forward over those five centuries, but none has yet been conclusively authenticated.

It is now believed the portrait above by an unknown artist is the truest likeness of Jane Grey and is in the collection of the Duke of Northumberland at Syon House, Middlesex, UK.

One of our young artists, Isabel Walters, responded to the portrait with a bust SYON JANE that was exhibited at the New Armouries 12 February as part of the WOEFUL PUPPET exhibition.

 

 

Evaluation

We have had a full and exciting 18 months or so working on our Lady Jane Grey project WOEFUL PUPPET.

 

 

We are now starting our evaluation process.

If you have taken part or attended any of our events we really would like to hear from you in the comments below.

Or you can email us on unityarts@hotmail.co.uk

 

 

****ORANGES & ELEPHANTS

There is so much in this unique blend of Victorian violent vaudeville where Celtic and Jewish rhythms blend in an incredible kaleidoscope of history, or rather Herstory in this noisy, beautiful balletic riot of poverty and petticoats.

Inspired by the real Forty Elephants gang in Southwark in the nineteenth century East End writer, Lil Warren gets down and dirty bringing tribal terror to the Music Hall. Whilst Warren’s excavation, celebration and reinvention of this East End language would make a Londoner proud, it speaks with a unique humanity to the hurt and hope of the ghetto beyond: “What you are born is ne’er your fault, You are a soul in your body you caught.”
She captures the underworld of the underworld, the underclass of the working class, where we find the slaves of slaves – woman. Yet this matriarchal world is a full of power and cruelty, predators and romantics, love and lust. Where gallows humour is a permanent fixture and the unsung voices of female poverty, historical and contemporary are finally, and beautifully, sung.

Framed in the gorgeous gin-soaked walls of Hoxton Hall, we the audience are perfectly, perched between past and present, as guests of now and then. Our glad eyed go-betweens of yesterday and today, our Madame of Ceremonies and her perky pianist are the perfect psychopomps journeying us with light into the darkness and back again.
You can feel the ghosts everywhere yet the past ignites the present, most powerfully in a glorious ending that unites us all as one at the end of time. Funny, rousing, horrifying and powerful, this all-female affair is utterly superb. Tremendous performances from the actors, singers and musicians with plenty of comic turns thrown in. The world(s) created by the designer are wonderful, a stroke of genius making the curtain a Booth’s Map of Poverty. In the true spirit of Music Hall and Vaudeville, this is an eclectic mix of styles and culture, as fluid as gender identity itself. Poignant and provocative. Catch it before your time is up!

Pauline Goldsmith

Assoc Artist Vanishing Point, Creator of Bright Colours Only

ORANGES & ELEPHANTS at Hoxton Hall until 10 February

Cast & Creatives info and tickets available on their website

HOXTON HALL

 

WOEFUL PUPPET TOWER OF LONDON 12 FEBRUARY

We are preparing for our last installation at The New Armouries at The Tower of London on 12 February from 1230-400.

This is a FREE event and you can order your tickets here.

WOEFUL PUPPET Tower of London

Please print and bring with you. Once you have attended you have FREE access to the rest of The Tower of London.

There will be art, historical research, film and live installations, Tudor food tasting, music from Hackney community choir, Silver Song Birds with a new composition by Gina Fergione and the dramatisation of Lady Jane Grey’s own words.

The Live Events start at 130pm and  will include the talk by expert Dr Zoe Hudson called Everyday Life in the Tudor Prison.Exploring the theme of daily life for prisoners in the sixteenth century. Lady Jane Grey was imprisoned from July 1553 until her execution in February 1554, and in her talk Zoe will question what daily life was like for Jane at this time.

 

 

****THARK by Ben Travers DRAYTON ARMS

THARK by Ben Travers.

Directed by Matthew Parker.

In these grey, dreary days that seem to lack that bygone pre-Christmas sparkle go and get yourself a large, fizzy dollop of fun at the Drayton Arms this festive season. Thark by Ben Travers is a frothy cacophony of a farce and its players play it for all its camp worth. The mis-selling of the country seat Thark, the never ending cases of mistaken identity, and lots of rapid entering and exiting of doors.

Parker seems to have a Tardis spell amongst his magical theatre making tricks. He convinces us the relatively small space of the Drayton Arms Theatre is the expansive (and expensive) habitat of the very rich of the late 1920s. (He is Artistic Director of the North London multi- award winning Hope Theatre). This theatre magic is aided by a spare yet sumptuous design by Granville Saxton and the tip top detailed costume design by Bryony J. Thompson.

Farce is hard to pull off as it has to be immaculately timed, played large but not grotesquely and we the audience have to follow a complex plot. Thark has all these elements. I really appreciated the well disciplined physical performances, punctuated by deliciously timed punchlines, results achieved by a skilled director attuned to the movement and rhythm inherent in this Aldwych oldie.

There are some lovely performances. I particularly enjoyed the excellent portrayal of shop girl Cherry Buck (played with a chic vivacity by Isabella Hayward ) who finally manages to get herself engaged to Lionel Frush (a completely believable idiot played by Alexander Hopwood). I always enjoy skilful clowning and Robin Blell who plays the nephew Ronald Gamble has comic timing in spades.

There are several pleasing surprises in the second half and I left the theatre with a huge smile on my face. I went early in the run and all I would ask is that the pace went up a couple of gears. These are actors new to the profession and they all did their director proud.

Oscar Ciros

Runs until January 6 2018

Drayton Arms

153 Old Brompton Road, London, Greater London, SW5 0LJ

http://www.draytonarmstheatre.co.uk/tickets

 

SUTTON HOUSE SUCCESS

Sutton House were so impressed with our installation we were  exhibiting there for two weeks in addition to the Live Event on 8 September.

This exhibition was created and curated by our Young Research Team.

What a welcome from Sutton House who were such great heritage partners and such a fantastic response from the visitors to the installation. “Such a beautiful story, beautifully told”.

If you missed it this and all the other work we have been preparing will be on show at the New Armouries in the TOWER OF LONDON on 12 February 2018.

****BRAZIL at The Hope Theatre

Brazil is a thoroughly entertaining one man show, that holds the audiences focus from start to finish.

This marvellous play by Ronan O’Donnell is set in Scotland some time in the near future where America is at war with Europe. Doddy (Angus Chisholm) strives for hope of a better place, amongst the depressing day to day life that he finds himself living in.

Chisholm’s performance (directed by Alex Crampton) is fantastic! He keeps the attention of everyone in the theatre, laughing at the characters working class wit, and keeping them in absolute silence for the more intense moments. Doddy does impressions throughout the piece of his Mum, Dad and friend, Cockroach. Chisholm does an incredible job of distinguishing these characters from Doddy, but also inhabiting them in a way that you still believe it’s coming from his character, rather than the actor himself. You often forget you’re watching a one man show.

The lighting remained simple throughout the piece, with a few little surprises. The set made of just of beer crates was used to great effect as sofa, TV and even a bush and Doddy’s layered, scruffy and muddy costume helped in transporting the audience to a council estate.

The prominent use of Scottish slang, meant that you sometimes missed things that Doddy said. However, it was a performance full of clarity so that you always understood what was implied, and could continue to follow the story.

This piece would do well anywhere due to it’s energy and humour, but I’d especially love to be in an audience anywhere is Scotland, because I’d imagine the laughter would be loud and constant for the whole hour!

Daniel Furlonger

BRAZIL will be part of the Solo Show Festival in New York

Image by Michael Cheetham @MicahelCheets

For more info @ProduseTheatre