Young Critics' Reviews

Brighton Festival Reviews by Brighton Squad and Theatre Royal Brighton Young Writers

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NWS's resident young writers from the Brighton Squad and Theatre Royal Brighton Young Writers have been given press privileges to review shows, art installations, talks and debates throughout Brighton Festival 2015.   Their reviews are posted here and the Brighton Dome website.

Please note, the Joey Arias Experience review contains one quote from the show of an adult nature.

 

 

Jeanette Winterson - Boldness in the Face of a Blank Page. The New Writing South Annual Lecture

Review by Johanna Papa Segura. Age 16

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“Boldness in the Face of a Blank Page is a title that has absolutely nothing to do with what I’m going to be talking to you about tonight” admits Jeanette Winterson, the sole author of ten novels, (the most well known perhaps being Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit) and winner of the Whitbread Award for Best First Novel (amongst many other awards) to a room fit to burst with audience members, anxiously craning their necks towards the writer, who stands centre stage and faces the audience.

Jeanette Winterson is a charismatic speaker and tells it like it is. Everyone in the audience is enthralled as she speaks about the importance of fiction in literature and language itself and its place in our ever changing digitalized lives with such clarity that it seems impossible that she has ever failed to say what she really means.

Discarding papers behind her on stage, as she skims through her notes the evening seems to whizz past in a flurry of scribbled pages. Jeanette Winterson sets the audience’s brains buzzing and the collective sound of a beehive fills the room as she spouts irrefutable philosophies, backed up with much scientific research to solidify her claims.  After a thought provoking lecture, much praise for teachers and talk of the looming election results, we were treated to a Q&A session, where the audience members were told, “no holds barred”…

An overall seamlessly captivating talk, given by a refreshingly honest and outspoken writer, was met with rapturous applause as the talk came to an end.

 

Fleeting by And Now:

Reviewed by Ava Aubrey Conboy. Age 15

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From the moment I moved to Brighton when I was eight, the ‘Sky Ballet’ (apparently I called them that when I first saw them, my parents said) has always been one of the reasons I love living in this city.  I can spend hours on Brighton beach, watching starlings’ closely synchronised and graceful movement!

I was excited and looking forward to Fleeting and understood the idea of the starlings moving as one community that has to fly from one home to the next, sometimes a tragic truth for people and animals. 

On the night, despite being there half an hour before the event began, I could not get anywhere close to the action, so I bagged a spot up on the promenade to the left of the action.  I’m afraid, from where I stood, I couldn’t hear the soundtrack, could barely see the many fire lights (only the taller ones) and the movement of the dancers carrying the representations of starlings with white lights was only visible through the zoom on the lens of my camera.

Having said that, I loved the fireworks – all golden yellow - exploding over the sky, dipping into the sea and slowly climbing higher in the air (I’ve always been a girl for fireworks) and after many people had left, I managed to get close enough to the many fires of the installation and take some beautiful photographs.  Now I could hear the music, birds and sea.  People sat around quietly enjoyed the visual spectacle of the many fires and the soothing feelings of the soundtrack.

Sadly, many of us assumed that the installation had finished and walked away down the beach, and the fireworks began again!  It’s a shame we didn’t know to remain and wait; however I took some magical photos and watched fireworks.

On my way home, I said to my parents ‘Brighton is a magical place at night’.

 

The Inequality Conundrum – Chaired by Polly Toynbee

Review by Bea Davy-Sutherland. Age 14

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Photo: Epoca Libera Images

Stepping out of the Corn Exchange into the night air, I was left with a mixture of hope, complete abandon and utter confusion stewing like a casserole at the bottom of my stomach.

Polly Toynbee begins with 2 shocking facts:

22% of people in jobs are paid less than the legal minimum wage

Britain's richest 1% now own as much as our poorest 55%

As well as The Inequality Conundrum being an all-round rich event, it was also my first live debate attended. Polly Toynbee as chair, being the artful journalist she is, managed to predict the combinations of people that were likely to slam seemingly never-ending sentences at each other; I’m looking at you two, Mariana Mazzucato and Nick Cohen. And knowing this she seemed to articulately shuffle the conversation over to someone else, in the audience or otherwise.

The remaining two members of the lively debate, Neel Mukherjee and Frances O’Grady were somehow more reserved, dipping into conversation with well laid out presented ideas; there was predominantly a sincere lack of passion, especially on O’Grady’s part. Mukherjee quotes the Buddha, “change yourself, change the world”. I personally find truth in this; in fact the idea of sitting in a heated room with cushioned chairs and light fittings suddenly made me feel very privileged.

Thinking about that and watching that debate has made me realise that it is all well and good sitting in a room with a bunch of strangers, sociologists and economists, but nothing will change if we don’t do anything. So let’s do something!

 

The Measure of All Things - Sam Green (New York)

Review by Ava Aubrey Conboy. Age 15

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What’s life all about?

This age old question is at the heart of this live documentary.  “You’re born, you die, we’re all doing it!”  “So how do we make sense of what happens in between?”

Some of the stories were so moving, like the second tallest man saving the life of a dolphin who had plastic stuck in its stomach by reaching his arm in and pulling it out. A woman watching thought he seemed really kind and, to cut a long story short, they fell in love and had a child!

Sam Green (Director) told us how his favourite type of record breakers are not ones such as the town which comes together to make the biggest pizza, but those that have urges to do them, like the man who collected one and a half million keys, (his daughter sold them for scrap metal when he died!).  Or those that end up breaking records through no fault of their own – like the man who was struck by lightning seven times, (ironically, he died by taking his own life because apparently he was unlucky in love). “The parable of fate, the mystery of life,” Sam calls it.

The live music played by yMusic was also very beautiful and was arranged to weave in and out of the clips of film on the screen and the storytelling. Very atmospheric!

I’m a fan of the Guinness Books of Records - all of the funny and ridiculous records, but it is moving and sometimes sad to hear what happens to the people later in their lives.

An audience member said that the performance was “the most heart-warming and life-affirming event in the Brighton Festival”.

I agree. It was amazing!

 

A Dawn Chorus by Marcus Coates

Review by Ava Aubrey Conboy. Age 15

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Dawn Chorus was an original and charming piece of art – although I am not exactly sure what the exhibit is about – even though I read the publicity!

The piece combined a vocal soundtrack which sounds very much like birdsong (but was created by humans) and a series of video screens showing people going about their morning routines.

The screens were suspended from the ceiling at different heights and this echoed birds roosting in trees and other places. It was an interesting and entertaining experience. When I went to see Dawn Chorus, the audience were confused, amused, giggling or silent – there were even a couple of belly laughs at the bird twittering at the man in his underpants!

It was weird, but also humorous to see humans moving around jerkily and almost synchronising with the bird voices. The songs were also beautiful to listen to.

I liked the concept about drawing a parallel between birds and people and their activities in the morning. Some of the people were doing things that matched the behaviour of birds like staying in bed instead of getting up – like owls. Some of the screens showed empty rooms where the humans would eventually return to – just like birds returning to their roosts.

If human movement needs to be speeded up so much - are people really like birds? On the other hand, anything that reminds us how close we are to nature has got to be a good thing!

 

Read Y'Self Fitter by Andy Miller

Review by Holly Lambe . Age 13

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Read Y’Self Fitter was a clever, witty and brilliantly simple ten steps plan to get yourself into better reading habits in order to one day read that book that you have been telling yourself for years that you should have already read.

This concept had the potential to become patronising or deadly serious but Andy Miller managed with ease to steer the performance in the other direction. He encouraged you and didn’t make you feel bad for not having read the book that everyone’s been raving about for the past few months or even years; he just encouraged you to get on the bandwagon with the constant reminder that we are all in the same boat, of having guilty consciences over not having read one book or another.

As well as helping you on your way to better reading habits, Andy Miller also raised numerous very interesting and controversial points on book group culture, finishing or not finishing books you dislike, literature snobbery and the effect it has on us all and, something I think we have all done, lying and saying that you have read a book which you haven’t, all of which was very thought-provoking in the most light-hearted way possible.

I think that this talk applied to everyone out there, whether they are a big reader or not, as it is impossible to have read every book ever, but Andy Miller made you feel like just by turning up to his talk you already had a better reading technique. It was totally hilarious, really inspiring and just pure brilliance.

 

The Joey Arias Experience

Review by Gina Laline. Age 21

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Photo: Heath McBride

So I was sitting in the Theatre Royal Brighton without knowing what I was going to watch. Lights off. Silence and a smoky stage. Suddenly this Diva appeared on stage saying "I can still smell the blow jobs you guys had last night", "Brighton is such a beautiful city with the roller-coaster and all these people asking for money in every corner"…And the truth is I loved it. Joey Arias just reminded me of the theatre’s roots.

A nostalgic stage feeling of the sixties was there all the time. I was feeling I was surrounded by cigarettes, cocaine, sex and pop art. And it just made me feel theatre needs to modernize; nowdays we are used to watching formal plays, with limits, plays that make us dream, unreal stories. And this man was just acting and singing beautifully as a human. Showing us how life is and having a laugh about it without any complex. I was feeling jealous of his personality - strong, confident, a real Diva and new-hero. He made me laugh, think, realize small important things in life. I’m not going to forget to mention his amazing band: three handsome guys in suits playing the drums, a violoncello and the piano with passion. They were acting all together as a team and I was breathing in the confidence and support between them. The Joey Arias Experience is a show to watch; he will remind you who you are and where you come from. I wish he were my best friend.

 

Freeze! by Nick Steur (Liège/Maastricht)

Review by Harriet Cavanagh. Age 24

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Photo: Greg Macvean

“Bring your own stone (bigger than your fist) if you’d like to see it balanced!”

We congregated in the garden before entering to find six mirrored cubes on a stage space gridded with black lines, punctuated by dozens of stones. Nick Steur’s joints clicked as he carefully moved to select and peer into the stones’ surfaces, starting ludicrously balanced pillars before twisting away. His focus invited our own hyper-awareness. Nobody dared exhale.

After balancing initial towers, Steur held out his hand. Everyone was hesitant until the first woman gave hers, then the mood changed.

Fairly near the beginning (every second expanded so it was hard to judge) after audience interaction, floor weight shifted and the first tower crashed down. It was startling, prompting reflection on destruction, inevitability and change. Towers can be rebuilt.

The venue choice was perfect, a Quaker place of worship hosting this testament to silence, patience and practice. It was like a collective meditation, almost ritual. The mirrored platforms further shifted reality (black lines no longer perpendicular, towers of rubble and rock refracted).

When he finished, we were invited to look from new angles at the nineteen stones improbably arranged. Freeze! shifted from participatory art performance to sculpture exhibition.

Freeze! was not like any kind of theatre I’ve seen before (in structure or staging) but the raw simplicity only amplified the wonder. The attention that each object was given and the resulting towers felt profound. I left with my sense of time and eyes reset.

 

The Forgotten/L’Oublié(e) by Compagnie L'Oublié(e). Directed by Raphaëlle Boitel

Review by Naoise Wellings. Age 13

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Photo: Vincent Beaume

The thump of a heartbeat echoed through darkness. That was only the beginning of a sinister, bizarre yet beautiful performance by Raphaëlle Boitel. Between the cast, they pushed the limits of understanding and twisted your perception of everything into a shape to suit them better. You were constantly perplexed by everything onstage, yet you couldn’t tear yourself away from the haunting performance.

       The Forgotten is not a show designed to help you find the answers to questions. It is a performance whose beauty will take your breath away while causing confusion at the same time. Because of its complexity, the audience was unsure of when it had ended. And when they knew, they applauded loudly.

       The show had a wide variety of emotions in it, from humour at the very beginning to grief later on. It combined acrobatics with dance and drama, the outcome not quite like anything experienced before. The skill of the gymnasts was incredible, from ridiculous flexibility to stunning wirework.

       As well as the actors themselves, the technicians were extraordinary. The lighting constantly influenced the atmospheres, at some points making the actors appear like characters on paper, untouchable, their movements jolted. The use of sound also enhanced the performance, making your heart race along or lulling you into a false sense of security.

       The Forgotten was magnificent and captured the peculiarity of love, longing and death in one performance.

 

Beaches Beaches - Installation by Agnès Varda

Review by Lova Wallseth. Age 15

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Photo: Julie Fabry

At first slightly underwhelming, then oddly captivating. Agnès Varda’s exhibition, Beaches Beaches, was an interesting combination of impressions and the unusual composition of them left me both at peace and a bit confused.

Walking into the gallery, I did not at all understand the exhibition in front of me. The room was, in my opinion, a mess of ideas and colour schemes that did not go together whatsoever; the pieces separately were, at first glance, not particularly spectacular or breathtaking. Though after walking around for a minute or two, something happened - I noticed the details of the stickers that had been put on the windows, the formation they were put in. It all looked and felt so unmistakeably French, from the design of the flip-flops on the decorative stickers, to the shape of them. I noticed that the wall at the far end of the room (on which a film featuring sand castles and even more sandals was playing) that what I had dismissed before as just a collection of beach-related splashes of colour and a film providing background noise, only there to contrast the more pale photogaraphs on the wall to my right, truly captured a sense of summer in France with extreme accuracy. I felt like I was right there, on a beach in France.  All of a sudden the odd combination of colours and ideas somehow made sense. It was clear that a lot of thought had been put into the presentation of this, and walking into the hidden room behind the first one to watch the film Olysse, gave the whole experience a context and with that a new dimension to the art.

This exhibition conveyed the emotions and atmosphere of a French beach. It may sound dull, but it was brilliant in its simplicity and I really enjoyed not being bombarded with messages and impressions, but truly experiencing the subtle happiness and a true sense of the beach that Varda created. The exhibition didn’t take my breath away, but embraced me with a skilfully created atmosphere and left me with a sense of warm summer and a craving for croissants.

 

451 by Periplum

Review by Holly Lambe. Age 13

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The atmosphere created at the start was really powerful. The air was thick with cigarette smoke and sirens blared with urgent messages in many different languages. Pages of banned books were being passed around and everybody was packed in tight together; at least a thousand people turned up to see the show with a few more peering over the outside walls. The first sounds of the show were a violin piece played live which contrasted beautifully with the previous announcements played loudly over the speakers. Everybody felt tense and anticipation was high even just a few moments in. The mood that was created at the start was continued throughout the piece making it thrilling to watch. 451 took 360 degree theatre to a whole new level, as you didn't know where to look for the next scene and fire was burning up everywhere with fireworks going off all around you.

Although it didn’t have a clear storyline or movement, it was really thought-provoking and fascinating to watch. It was a dystopia, but without the brave hero coming to save the day, just with brutal reality of how the corrupt government was treating the society. Even as an avid reader it made me think, “What would the world be like without books? Better? Worse?” This show evoked fascinating ideas that could be discussed in much further detail, but to really get a clear idea of how amazing this show really was, I recommend that you go and see it yourself.

 

The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler by Vanishing Point and National Theatre of Scotland

Review by Stani Miles. Age 14

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Photo: Tim Morozzo

As Mr. Cutler so appropriately sings in one of his songs, 'I have everything I need'. And he is right; the theatre production of Ivor Cutler's hectic, unrealistically poetic and smile-inducing life has everything you will need, including but not limited to musical numbers, touching retellings of his love life and surprise visits by Paul McCartney. Sandy Grierson gives a compelling and believable performance as Mr. Cutler himself, staying true to the poet's signature oddball style, with Elicia Daly bringing up the rear (almost like a calm background to a surreal and random foreground), and Ed Gaughan stealing any scenes that he appears in with a genuinely funny and adept style. There is one moment, for example, where he goes offstage as one character, chats to another character (also himself), and says 'well we can't both come on at the same time!'

The production makes amazing use of the lighting, utilising darkening effects to create still images and also interacting with the audience to create an involving atmosphere which will please some of the younger audience members as well, making sure that everyone has a good time. Which, as I found, it did; every scene has some sort of joke or funny quip from Cutler, whilst also staying true to his otherworldly and whimsical poems and accounts. However, if I had to choose, the music is the real showstopper, with a very talented group of performers playing a variety of soothing and melodic instruments to accompany Cutler's sound effects and charming dialogue; it makes for a very special experience in the theatre.

The performance was not scot-free, however; much of the second act was confusing, and not accessible to everyone who was interested in learning about Ivor Cutler. It also went on for a bit too long; in fact so much so that my gaze wandered up to the royal boxes to think about if I would meet the same fate as Abraham Lincoln if I were up there. But that's probably my short attention span. The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler is a genuinely intriguing and delightfully surreal performance (look out for the school scene!) that is well worth your time in the month of May.

 

Romeo and Juliet - Globe Theatre on Tour

Review by Gina Laline. Age 21

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When it’s about Shakespeare my legs used to shake. When it’s about Romeo and Juliet my whole body shakes. It’s so easy to destroy it and so hard to make it shine.

I felt I was going to watch something beautiful when I realized the play was happening at the new Air Brighton Open Air Theatre. I don’t know, more romantic, more free, more Verona I guess. When I got there, couples with their picnics were lying in the grass waiting to watch the romantic play about the love story they were waiting to live. And suddenly, the amazing Romeo and Juliet, directed by Dominic Droomgole, took my breath away. I got goosebumps watching Dominic’s confidence following his Shakespearian intuitions. He doesn’t pretend. A kind Romeo appeared and, after so many years, I found a Juliet you can believe; it is easy to believe she is 14 years old and she is so innocent and passionate. But everything got better when the beautiful scene with the Nurse happened, the fights and the really fair end. Some of the actors were acting two roles at the same time but without any confusion for the audience.  Concrete. Classic. Beautiful. I felt pleasure watching a talented team working together and showing to the audience that less is more and that with Shakespeare it’s better to not have any ambition. I’m sure that, for once, Shakespeare would applaud at the end of the show.

 

Lucia’s Chapters of Coming Forth by Day by Mabou Mines (New York)

Review by Ben Tayor. Age 24

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Memories are like silver strands that disappear and re-emerge in an instant. In essence this is the mantra behind Sharon Fogarty’s oddly fascinating expose on the life of Lucia Joyce. Charting author James Joyce’s daughter’s transition into the afterlife, Lucia's Chapters of Coming Forth by Day captures the very essence of this year’s festival.  With its usage of physical theatre, performance and multi-media the audience becomes intertwined into the ramblings of our protagonist.

Maria Tucci’s Lucia is nothing short of sensational as she carves for us a damaged, ailing and upbeat woman slugging through the fog of her past and embracing her untimely demise. At times, there does seem a bit too much going on for the rather brief running time of just under an hour. However, it is the courage of Fogarty’s script that balances this as she does not shy away from the struggles of mental illness. In fact it is here where Jim Clayburgh’s set comes alive through video images, flashing lights and an unusual but effective chair that lifts our characters that propels their dialogue.

At the epicentre of this piece is the amalgamation of different art forms. Writing, film, installation art and the spoken word all get their time in the sun and are well rewarded through the narrative.  Such is the power of memories; there is a great sense of life and death and Tucci excels at bringing these two opposing themes vividly to the stage.

 

Carol Ann Duffy with LiTTLe MACHiNe

Review by Emily Nutbean. Age 13

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Photo: Michael J Woods

Carol Ann Duffy spoke for around an hour, captivating every single person as she read out her amazing poems; some from the point of view of the wife of a famous man, mythical or real. One of these examples is Mrs. Midas, who is left to deal with the atrocious consequences of her husband’s whimsical wish. Carol Ann Duffy made us laugh and cry; she told a few poems about her mother, which was very emotional.

The thing that I most enjoyed about her appearance was her anecdote about one of her poems, a more serious one written about the dangerousness of knives, especially with children. This poem was removed from the GSCE paper, and Duffy later wrote a poem about said person, bringing us to tears of laughter yet again. I really enjoyed Carol Ann Duffy’s piece, especially since I am not really into poetry; she can create such beautiful poetry that even people who hate it cannot help but listen to it and still be awestruck.

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Carol Ann was supported by a band called LiTTLe MaCHiNe, who are truly amazing. They combined genuine and heartfelt poetry with the incredible wonder of music. They made me rethink many poems that I had imagined in a completely different light. One of these amazing phenomena was a rock & roll beat composed to Fear No More by Shakespeare. I had always imagined Shakespeare’s poems and plays to be soothing and gentle, but LiTTLe MaCHiNe gave Shakespeare a whole different side to his personality. This was the same with Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky. The way the band completely changes the view of these amazing poets brings a new and amazing aspect to poetry.

Overall I really enjoyed the performance, as it made me completely rethink the idea of poetry and I came away from the Dome with an entirely new opinion of poetry.

 

Laura Snowden and Tom Ellis guitar duo

Reviewed by Ava Aubrey Conboy. Age 15

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Two young people, classical guitars, no microphones but a huge amount of talent!

Today, my companion (who is also a guitar player) and I went to the Brighton Dome to see Laura Snowden and Tom Ellis performing guitar duets.

The complexity and beauty that these two fine musicians can create is astonishing. Their repertoire was wide ranging and colourful – and all that sound from two guitars!

Each piece sounded unique, and I found myself nodding my head along to some of them. For example, I thought the first piece sounded like something out of an atmospheric Japanese video game; it was so colourful! Laura often produced such beautiful harmonics from her guitar that it sounded as if she were playing a harp rather than a guitar. The duo’s handling of their instruments was delicate yet confident. They also barely looked at their music sheet which showed their great skill.

The only downside was that the lack of microphones and PA made the performance too quiet – you wondered whether a cough or the creak of you shifting in your seat would drown out a crucial part of the piece! I don’t believe that using microphones would ruin the performance –it would more likely help people to relax and enjoy the music even more.

I will definitely check the duo out on YouTube to get to know more of their work.

 

Without Walls Weekend

Review by Emily Nutbean. Age 13

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BEES! The Colony by Artazani was a very surreal performance. In the midst of some trees were various beehives, each with different things happening. In one there was a bee racetrack, in another a bee cinema playing the movie Sting and in another one there was just a mirror that added mystery. This area was very amusing and fun, mostly aimed at young kids.


 

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Reliquary by Avanti Display added an air of mystery as two men were dragging around a cart with a case concealing a hidden egg (apparently). This happened quite frequently, but the men never revealed what was inside the egg. I was disappointed that we never got to find out what was inside the egg but on the other hand I realise that that could be exactly the sort of reaction the men wanted.

 

 

 

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Hold On by Stefano Di Renzo was an act was a man performing various tricks that purposefully went wrong most of the time. It was rather like a mime act, as he didn't say a word during the whole performance. I liked this performance, as you never knew what he was going to do next based on his movement or actions.

 

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Finally there was a stage where various acts showed off their incredible skills. The first was Louder Than Words by Cathy Waller Company, an act in which a man played an extraordinary looking instrument whilst a man and a woman contemporary danced around the stage. This was a very interesting and captivating performance to watch, as it was very unique and unexpected.

The next act, Bill & Bobby by Stopgap Dance Company was definitely my favourite; it was a dance act showing how disabled people could still dance. It was very clever and must have taken a lot of time to choreograph. It was an amusing variety of dances and really impressed me. The music was very jaunty and set the scene extremely well.

 

Stay-at-Home Dandy by Luke Wright

Review by Wilkie Dickinson Sparkes. Age 15

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Stay-at-Home Dandy is the single funniest performance poetry event I have seen. That may seem unbearably niche but the show really is a masterpiece. From the moment Luke Wright steps on stage he wows the audience with his ¾ length coat and waistcoat, with surprising cool hair. This wow factor continues throughout the show. The poetry is brilliantly written and energetically performed, and in between each poem Wright talks for a while about his life as the titular dandy and the motivation behind each poem, with hilarious and topical jokes sown in, which relax you and make each upcoming poem all the more surprising.  

The poems follow the course of one day. He starts with a description of himself, before moving on to the school run and the “other mothers” as he distances himself from the other men on the run, through to watching Question Time late at night. He engages with the audience enthusiastically, and shows great knowledge of Brighton in his jokes about the upcoming election, with references to Caroline Lucas’ dominance in this area. This may seem inconsequential but I think it helped the audience settle into his show a lot more quickly.

All in all, it was invigorating to see a combination of both stand-up comedy and performance poetry, and to see it so well done. A definite 5 stars, and I would recommend that anyone who enjoys performance poetry OR comedy  - go to see it.

 

That Hopey Changey Thing - The Apple Family Plays

Review by Isabel Waters. Age 16

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Richard Nelson’s That Hopey Changy Thing is an admirably intimate production centred on a night with the Democrat-supporting Apple family. Barbara Apple hosts the meal in a house which she shares with Uncle Benjamin, a retired actor who now suffers memory loss after having a heart attack. Her brother Richard joins her, along with her sister Jane, Jane’s new boyfriend Tim and her other sister Marian.

It’s an American writer exploring his country’s political system by means of an American family, with the purpose of having it performed to an American audience, yet throughout the production I found myself drawing parallels with England’s current political climate. Don’t get me wrong, this play is set during the 2010 mid-term elections and since I was eleven at the time my knowledge of who was involved is almost non-existent. Luckily for me Nelson’s more general observations are strong enough to transcend both time and continents.

I was especially taken by a speech made by Richard Apple, about the demonisation of Sarah Palin by the Democrats or more generally about people’s attitude to those who do not share their political views. But this play isn’t just politics; what sets this piece apart is the ever-changing family dynamics present and the well-developed characters. I especially fell in love with Uncle Benjamin, whose memory has become so faded that he can’t even remember his dog died. At multiple intervals he would ask his family “Where’s Oliver” and that just got me every time. Overall, I really enjoyed the performance and I wish I’d bought tickets to see all The Apple Family Plays.

 

Beyond by Circa

Review by Celia Westwood Dunkley. Age 14

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Photo: Andy Phillipson

Jaws dropped. Breath was held. And the capacity crowd was thrilled by another magnificent performance from Circa, the 21st century circus group from Australia. Bringing back their heart-stopping acrobatics to the Brighton Festival, they didn’t fail to wow the audience with a show of non-stop action, fluid movement and gravity-defying skills on ropes and trapeze.

Beyond blurs the line between animal and human, giving the performers the opportunity to display breathtaking abilities usually beyond the potential of the human body. Hence the name of the show. Performers sometimes wear bunny-heads and even bear suits; they contort their bodies into extreme, creature-like positions and display strength and agility you are more likely to find in the wild than on the stage. Beyond gives the performers a great theme with which to showcase their unique talents, just as their show at last year’s Festival compared them to angels.

Circa boldly mix impressive feats of skill and daring with carefully choreographed routines which have a beguiling beauty. They also add a good measure of cheeky humour and even some audience interaction. Performers pushed their bodies to the limits, and also made the simplest things into something extraordinary – keeping a loose sheet of paper magically glued to hands or feet during a whirling routine.

Beyond exceeded expectations and resulted in collective gasps and laughs in equal measure. This was relentless entertainment for an audience of all ages, and ended with a very well-deserved standing ovation.

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