Shakespeare is Dead, Get Over It

Shakespeare is dead, get over it!

The first hypertextual play is finally available in English!

William loves Anna and hates globalisation. Anna does not care about globalisation, for she is an actress – but she loves William, the strongest opponent of globalisation here and now, as well as the writer from there and then: William S., you know who. He, in turn, is not loved by William. William and Anne struggle to find each other and fail. They do not escape their fate – fate as represented in the urge to change, fight against tradition, helplessness in front of injustice, pursuit of one’s original dreams, necessity to redefine love, and burden of history. The play is a reconstruction of this story like after a stroke when everything is confused, when one must rebuild everything. It unfolds in fragments whereby a character tries to reconstruct what happened, why they got to that point. Many elements come up after a stroke, such as references from youth, memories from the past, and all that sort of thing. It all gets a bit mixed up.

Due to Internet surfing, we are now thinking in networks. We link various information and build opinions. This mode of thinking allowed Paul Pourveur to find a new approach to the fragmentary form. He translates the reality as a proposition of possibilities, between determinism and indeterminism, where information is layered in nonlinear sequences, and creates several points of view, more reading choices. This leads to a dramaturgy like a cobweb, with thousands of connections towards various areas, where the theme seems to explode in a total event. Pourveur reflects on post-modern biographies and, in a sense, hangs them up to dry on the progress of a rather easy-going relationship. At the end, everyone is dead, and the author recommends for the last time: Live clean, think about the next one.

The play has been translated by Philippe Rixhon and is published by L’atelier Spectaculaire. The eBook can be found at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Google, and in more selected stores. Happy reading!

Disability theatre charity Head2Head Sensory Theatre has launched a new YouTube series aimed at children with special needs, autism or other sensory issues

It’s great to report that Head2Head Sensory Theatre have created a special YouTube series on their channel for children with special needs or other sensory issues.

Head2Head Sensory Theatre is a registered theatre charity dedicated to the SEND Special Needs’ and disability Community.

The new series is called Sensory Squad and the videos are free to watch on YouTube, and are signed and captioned

Sensory Squad enhances communication and offers supportive and fun learning experiences through songs, crafts, stories dancing and repetition, all aimed to help families and children prepare for real world experiences through a variety of exciting sensory experiences.

The charity says “Our channel offers fun and interactive multi-sensory theatre experiences for ALL including; shows, storytelling, learning, games and mask workshops for families, schools, colleges & SNSUs.

We are passionate about making theatre accessible to all and understand that families who have a child with a disability face many barriers.

We raise awareness, share knowledge and develop new ways to make this happen.

We include opportunities for self-development and learning by offering work experience to students transitioning from education.”

You can find Head2Head’s channel here

Dudley Hippodrome excites interest from Birmingham City University’s MA architectural students

As the culture-blind Dudley Council stumbles towards its out-of-step decision to demolish the area’s only professional theatre, and a starting date “early in the New Year”, interesting news has just recently come in from the Dudley Hippodrome Development Trust (DHDT).

“DHDT have been approached by Birmingham City University, and their [MA] students have requested a project brief for the Hippodrome to be re-imagined for Theatres Trust ‘at Risk’ register.

The requirements are to adapt such a building into a place for local people to enjoy, with such a large space to be divided for long term economic viability, champion local entrepreneurship, and to attract visitors from further afield to bring cultural tourism back into Dudley Town.

The students’ ‘Work in progress’ will be seen on 8th November with final projects to be completed by 6th December.

We wish them every success and look forward to seeing the results.

Is this embarrassing to the Council ?

You decide……….”

I know what I think. What about You?


Matthew Ashforde as Natty Hemworth in DISTINGUISHED VILLA (photo by Carla Evans)

IN BRIEF An interesting play in an uneven revival, boosted by a standout performance

He stands there, shaking, hunched, broken, in despair. “Just say one kind word to me” pleads Natty to his wife. It does not come.

DISTINGUISHED VILLA is an interesting, and still valid, exploration of what people give up – and cover up – in order to be seen as “respectable”.

Irish writer Kate O’Brien’s play takes us back to 1926. Mabel and Natty Hemworth, married for 15 years, live in “the most refined home in The Avenue”.  Mabel is ruled by maintaining her respectable social status. Natty is ruled by Mabel.

Prudish, cold Mabel, permanently clad in a chastity belt of an apron throughout, devotes her time to maintaining her house as model of cleanliness and order – unlike her mismatched marriage to sad Natty, who lives a life of quiet desperation and self-loathing, heartily aided and abetted by his wife. “I’ve kept him in his place” boasts Mabel about Natty, with a dizzying pride.

In their home also resides Mabel’s younger sister Gwen, and a sophisticated lodger from a higher social bracket, Miss Llewellyn who is “keen to observe” their lives. However, when she becomes entangled in the family’s affairs, it sets in motion a chain of revelations and tragic events with consequences for all the characters.

Downtrodden, despairing Natty finds interest from the new lodger that his wife lacks. And although her beau is artistically-inclined John Morris, impressionable Gwen gets swept off her feet by posh good-time cad Alec who calls upon Miss Llewellyn but ends up impregnating Gwen.

Although the occasional hints of comedy have faded across the years, the themes of the play, the inequalities of class and the pressure of society’s expectations upon both men and women are, depressingly, still as fresh today as when the play was first written. Although the expression of these themes through the play has changed with time, we can empathise with Natty’s mental health crisis, but perhaps in a different way to 1926 audiences, when men didn’t talk about their feelings. The same can be said about Gwen’s righteous sense of injustice at being used and dumped, in an age where unmarried mothers were automatically judged and damned by society.

The most satisfying performance comes from Matthew Ashforde, who gives a splendidly detailed performance as Natty, with a sad downward gaze, forever looking out of the window of his pristine prison towards “freedom”. He makes a big impact when Natty allows himself to reveal his tortured feelings and dissatisfaction with life, fully holding the (otherwise slow Sunday afternoon) audience in his “confession” to Miss Llewellyn about his sadness and guilt.

All of the cast work hard. Mia Austen has an uphill job as Mabel, whose character type has become something of a cliché over the subsequent years. There are no hints at redeeming features in Mabel, and consequently it is difficult to have any empathy or connection with the character, which felt too grindingly monotone to sustain interest.

Brian Martin as John Morris, the mismatched suitor to Gwen, battles valiantly with some very flowery poetic love dialogue, which can be best described as a draw, although it must be said that his earlier work at the Finborough, in the same producer’s JANE CLEGG some three years ago, was very strong.

It’s definitely a case of “less is more” in a space as intimate as the 50-seat Finborough and at times, for me, the playing felt too big for the space, and for this reason, the production feels uneven. (Interesting to note that the play found its success playing in the 400-seat Little Theatre in London’s West End).

The Finborough has a high reputation in unearthing rediscoveries, and it is always fascinating to see how a play from another era “travels”. In this case, although time has changed the landscape of the play in terms of how it plays, the underlying emotions still resonate across time, and I was very glad to have had the chance to see and support a celebrated Irish female writer’s work from almost a century ago. Thanks again to the Finborough and producer Andrew Maunder for this rare opportunity.

DISTINGUISHED VILLA runs at the Finborough until October 1st.

Find more information and book tickets here

Black British Theatre Awards 2022

Now into its fourth year, the Black British Theatre Awards will this year take its awards ceremony to the National Theatre’s Lyttelton Theatre on Sunday October 16th.

Featuring a wide array of talent, the awards, co-founded by Omar F Okai and Solange Urdang, celebrate Black British talent on display over the last theatrical year.

You can find a list of the nominees at their website, here