This Is The Kit @ Whitley Bay Playhouse

Reviewer – Rosanne Cooper – 5th July 2018

This Is the Kit perform regularly in various configurations from duo to quintet with the core band consisting Kate Stables (vocals / guitar / banjo), Rozi Plain (bass / vocals) Neil Smith (guitar) Jamie Whitby-Coles (drums)

They released their fourth album called Moonshine Freeze in July 2017.The record was well received and chosen as the Rough Trade Album of The Month for July.

The band tour regularly and play festivals and support such acts as The National and Sharon Van Ettan.

Kate played a variety of songs and showcased how talented she is both as a banjo and guitar player and a vocalist. Her banjo playing is particularly impressive and gives her a unique sound. Her voice is both pure and strong and she conveys complex emotions such as anger, regret and reflection. This was particularly apparent in her rendition of the melodic Bullet Proof in which she states that “Bullet holes are rushing in, No use bailing , Bullet proof, They never loved you-You let too many bullets through” and the sultry vocals of Two Pence Piece. When she played her memorable title track Moonshine Freeze from her most recent album, the audience joined in enthusiastically and this added to the already vibrant and relaxed atmosphere.

Kate interacted well with the audience throughout and used her humour to connect with the crowd. She was relaxed and comfortable on stage and she clearly has a strong fan base. As the set progressed the audience began to dance in the aisles and cheer and clap loudly following each song. Kate expressed her joy at this reaction and clearly appreciated this enthusiastic response.

In the second half of the show she invited Street Band Live onto the stage. This really enhanced her performance and she clearly enjoyed playing with a large group of musicians. It was great to see Kate support and encourage a local band who were all extremely talented and usually perform ‘pop up’ gigs.

Overall this was a fantastic gig. Kate is clearly a hugely talented singer, musician and songwriter. She demonstrates genuine warmth and humour and listening to her express her emotions and experiences through her lyrics is both uplifting and relatable.

Thank you, Kate, for a wonderful night!

5 stars

The Believers are but Brothers @ Northern Stage 15/06/2018

Originally premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017, The Believers are but Brothers was written and performed by Javaad Alipoor. The play looks at radicalisation amongst young people, including the causes and reasoning behind extreme views, plus the role played by the internet.

Alipoor takes the examples of three young men. Two are British Muslims attracted to the ISIS cause in Syria, the other a white American who spends his time in right-wing chatrooms. Whilst the specific details of their lives are different, they actually have much in common. Angry at a world that is not providing the opportunities they need, they’re like many young people and teenagers. The difference in the modern media age is that they aren’t restricted to staying in their rooms, listening to The Smiths and reading Beat poetry. Now – thanks to the internet – they have access to exciting, secret worlds and a whole host of causes to become passionate about.

The spotlight here might be on modern media outlets such as the internet, but it’s clear that many of the causes of radicalisation are part of a larger, swept-under-the carpet problem. If the news in our newspapers and on our televisions isn’t telling us the truth, then we cannot expect individuals online to give a balanced view either.

There is plenty humour to be found in the piece, and it’s these elucidations that sadly don’t make it into the newspapers or on the BBC. For instance, Alipoor details that many of the men who have left the UK to fight for the likes of ISIS overseas simply don’t have the physicality to be of use in a war, coming from sat-down office jobs. The journey to fight overseas thus becomes nothing more than a gap-year – kept out of a war they are incapable of joining, they are instead protected and used merely as propaganda tools.

There are many young people living without hope across the world, the UK being no different. The politics of austerity have coincided with a rise in young people committing suicide – more men are now committing suicide than dying of cancer – and there is a definite sense that becoming radicalised can provide a solution to the black thoughts many young people are feeling.

A parallel of sorts could be drawn with the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 70s and 80s, when many disenfranchised young people became attached to violent causes they never would’ve considered had there been jobs, houses, opportunities and genuine alternatives.

In cutting through the nonsense presented as news and opening a window into the real world of radicalisation, Alipoor has created a truly vital, entertaining and thought-provoking piece of theatre.

****

Rattle Snake @ Live Theatre 06/06/2018 by Kate Millar

Open Clasp’s return of Rattle Snake to Newcastle’s Live Theatre was nothing short of gripping throughout.

The play’s theme, revolving around domestic abuse within two relationships provoked many emotional notes, in a short space of time.

An intense and honest performance from Suzy (Christina Berriman Dawson) and Jen (Eilidh Talman) provided a meandering storyline, outlining the fear, apprehension, anger, low mood, paranoia and utter despair experienced when involved with and exposed to an abusive partner in an intimate relationship. The duality of the performance links two women, involved with the same partner who share their emotional experiences while being exposed to domestic abuse.

Created to aid with the training of frontline officers responding to actual cases of sexual and domestic violence in the community, Rattle Snake informs of the potential scenarios faced, when experiencing such abuse. Scenes are initially based around a dining table, of which introduces the audience to the first date setting, right through to the final scenes of despair and desperation and then eventual realisation.

Suzy, a mother of two, and Jen, also a mother, share their experiences of their relationship with their partner whose character negatively changes and gradually unfolds throughout the play. One scene witnesses Suzy in a boxing ring style environment during a ‘fight’ which is enhanced by boxing style commentary/flashing lights and movement, as though in an actual boxing ring. The dramatic vibe highlights the physical and mental associations linked with abuse and this proved to provide a powerful and thought-provoking experience for the audience to observe throughout the play. During the play both Berriman Dawson and Talman exchange roles, as to represent the male character in the storyline.

Fantastically executed bold language and tone really give the viewer a sense of fear and dismay when watching the abusive characteristics of their partner unfold. Written by Catrina McHugh MBE, Rattle Snake is a heart wrenchingly realistic play, which informs, highlights and educates the viewer of the seriousness and potential characteristics of domestic violence and abuse.

A packed out Live Theatre could feel, understand and acknowledge the tension directed from the two female characters of the play. A sympathetic wave of disgust lapped over the audience as the story eventually reached a climax of sheer terror. A brilliant performance highlighting the unfortunate reality of many relationships in today’s community. Rattle Snake is a vitally important and educational gem of a play connecting with its audience through  impactful writing and powerful acting.

*****

 

 

 

 

Windrush @ Northern Stage 09/05/2018

Created by the Phoenix Dance Theatre from Leeds, and choreographed by artistic director Sharon Watson, Windrush comes to Newcastle’s Northern Stage for a two-night run.

Windrush: Movement of the People makes up the evening’s second act following an excellent duo of mood-setting shorter pieces. Beginning in the Caribbean, following a crowd of people due to make the trip, the performers are dapper and full of optimism, all set for the promise of a new world and better lifestyle.

Shortly after arriving in England, the mood takes on a sombre tone. The movement within the dance hints at feelings of repression and disappointment as the deal sold to them by the British Government turns out to be full of challenges. Racial prejudice and ignorance makes it hard to find lodgings and work; in turn this makes it doubly hard to fit in amongst their new country folk.

This more downbeat section culminates in a positive ending, with a love story blossoming between a Caribbean man and a local girl. If many Brits were fearful of sharing their streets with people from a different culture (despite history telling us that such a happening was nothing new), the piece indicates that large elements of British youth had no such trouble. The people on the Windrush brought cooler clothes, better music and a whole range of new dance routines. At a time when British fashions were as colourful as a foggy day in winter, and conservatism still dominant across society, the joy to be found in those who embraced a different culture is clear to see.

Featuring all 10 dancers on stage at once, the final section is an utter delight. The celebratory feel of the whole troupe performing as one suggests a far more fulfilling life experience than that of those seen earlier in the play, sticking to what they know, resistant to change. Themes of embracing new experiences, celebrating differences and the benefits of finding common ground are clear, and any performance that makes one leave the theatre wanting to do nothing but dance is nothing short of a triumph. Windrush is fantastic.

*****

Brighton Rock @ Northern Stage 01/05/2018

Bryony Lavery’s adaptation of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock comes to Newcastle’s Northern Stage as part of a wider UK tour.

Beginning with the death of gangland boss Kite and the attempt of his prodigy Pinkie to seek revenge, Brighton Rock hits an impressive intensity in its opening minutes, maintaining it for the duration.

Largely shot in subdued lighting, the evocation of dingy backstreets, dank boarding houses and constant threat of violence never leaves the theatre. The darkness is beautifully-balanced by the ray-of-light presence of Ida, an amateur detective whose glamour and nosiness combine to brighten an otherwise singular world of violence. It’s a great performance from Gloria Onituri, and allowing her character a greater role also gives the piece a much-needed sane voice.

Often debated amongst scholars of the novel is the plausibility of Pinkie’s great contradiction – on the one hand prepared to murder anyone who gets in his way, on the other a firm believer in Hell for those who have sinned. Lavery’s adaptation – combined with an edge-of-the-seat performance from Jacob James Beswick – covers the religious angle without allowing it the dominating force it becomes in the novel, and this subtle interpretation serves the piece brilliantly.

Seen alongside Pinkie’s adolescent wedding night nerves and fear of intimacy, his religious rantings fit perfectly within the mind of a confused teenager for whom life no longer has purpose. This emphasis on youthful confusion over fully-formed religious conviction also gives space in the plot to suggest that, with Kite’s death, Pinkie lost not just a mentor but a father figure too – perhaps the only person he ever listened to. Without Kite’s presence, there is nothing to stop Pinkie going off the rails.

A faithful interpretation of Greene’s novel with some fantastic modern touches; Lavery’s adaptation makes for a thrilling piece of theatre and a real lesson on how to adapt a classic.

****