Guest blogger Laura Purvis shares her thoughts on Northumbria University Theatre and Performance MA Students Final Showcase
This was an interesting showcase to review. As a combination of short productions put together by the students, it was clear to see there were vastly different approaches to each. The students have just completed a MA in Theatre and Performance at Northumbria University. This made for a very interesting mixture of productions. It was abundantly clear that there were lots of supporters in the audience, lots of whooping and laughter was to be had throughout the night.
Before the show began there was a short introduction from course leader Kate Craddock. She explained the importance of the official partnership between the university and the Live Theatre. From the beginning of the programme, the students get introduced to industry professionals. The partnership allows them to talk through their projects with experts as well as get involved in many different workshops to build the skills throughout the course.
The show in the theatre was started off by Jake Jarratt with his one man show Blokes, Fellas and Geezers. Jake’s comedy timing was apparent from the moment he walked on stage. He had a great ability to make people laugh without even speaking. Blokes, Fellas and Geezers is a semi-autobiographical piece about addressing the male stereotype. He attempts to present a serious message in a comical way. A particularly good element of Jake’s performance was his ability to present a different character very clearly through his presentation. His commitment to the piece was very clear when he went as far as to shave his head during the performance. This was met with some gasps from the crowd and a loud rupture of applause when it concluded.
Next up was Don’t Shoot the Messenger by Ashley Fraser and Becky Morris. They had a very similar approach to Jake in that they were telling a serious story in a comical way. Don’t Shoot the Messenger is about the revenge porn crisis that is happening in the UK and is inspired by true stories. Both Ashley and Becky were very amusing to watch. Becky - in particular, presented some very comical faces. The subject is very topical and the element in which they mocked the ‘selfie’ culture was particularly poignant. Although I appreciate the element of leaving the audience wanting more, I did feel as if slightly too much had been left unsaid. While the dance sections were well put together and entertaining to watch, I felt they could’ve been shortened slightly to incorporate more of the story.
During the interval, the audience was invited to go and see the one-to-one show For You by Hattie Eason. I’m sorry to say I didn’t get into the queue on time to catch Hattie’s performance. The idea of this one-to-one performance is to offer the audience member a moment of self-love and to feel appreciated. Hearing people’s reactions to her performance, they found it very moving and somewhat emotive. Many of them hadn’t experienced theatre delivered in this way and were fascinated by it.
Back in the theatre was The Fable of the Lambton Worm by Anthony Wilkinson. This north-east fable was presented in a Japanese style, taking inspiration from the art forms Noh and Rakugo. As somebody who has no experience or understanding of these theatrical forms, it was an authentic experience to witness. Anthony’s performance was very focussed and although I may not have understood the meaning of the movements and actions he was presenting on stage, it was clear to see it was something he had studied in great detail. He presented with great conviction and his commitment to the style was apparent in the skill of his delivery.
The final performance of the night was “Keep It PG!” by Gary Quinn and Paige Hegarty. From the moment they stepped on stage, Gary and Paige captured the audience. In another semi-autobiographical story, this piece explores the friendship between two people from different Irish communities. After having seen two comedies already, this piece took it up another notch. Gary and Paige bounce off each other and in turn their comedy becomes infectious. Their timing was impeccable, and their audience interaction was seamlessly carried out. After seeming like a whirlwind of sorts, albeit a very funny whirlwind, the piece ended by dramatically bring the pace down with a song and a well performed duet.
Speaking to Kate Craddock about the staging of the show, she said “by putting the show on in a professional theatre, it gives the students a greater opportunity for professional networking and it is a better experience for them.” Overall the night was a great showcase for the students, Northumbria University and the Live Theatre.