Magic Gareth Live! – Review

Produced by Gareth White

Rating: 4 out of 5.

August in Scotland. The only four days of sun you’ll experience, no one seems to be wearing a shirt and of course the much beloved or dreaded Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Well… perhaps not this year. Or just maybe, with a little bit of luck and determination, a certain few will shine through and stage their own events. A local favourite, Gareth White has taken to digital performances throughout Lockdown, conducting well over 300 shows. Now, Magic Gareth Live! seeks to deliver that quality Fringe experience to newcomers and a few dab-hands.

Now, remember, if you can’t figure out the trick – well, that’s half the fun. Gareth’s repertoire primarily concerns the classics, with a couple of unique or digital twists (extra points for the Disney references). Chiefly aimed for the tots of the home, Gareth’s charismatic style is evidently targeting the family bracket, but don’t let those puns fool you – there’s some wit behind those cheeky grins. It’s entertainment for everyone, with enough back and forth discussion to involve adults and equally capture their sense of awe.

A compact routine, just over half an hour, Magic Gareth Live! fills a tremendous amount of jovial fun into the timeslot, more than enough to set those imaginations ablaze for the rest of the day. Personal, the Zoom feature shows Gareth control of the room, including any kids who want to get involved and have their days made or allowing those quieter tots to branch out a little and still involve themselves in their own way.

What’s particularly wonderful is Gareth’s refusal to cop-out a cheap get-away with a green screen. It’s there as a projection tool, to create a charming spellcaster’s locale rather than offer quick illusions or short-cuts in the magic. Technical wizardry only makes a brief appearance in a couple acts, while the remainder of Gareth’s set is a fine welcome to the world of the mystical as any tiny ones can hope for (and a way for the old fans to brush-up).

Sleight-of-hand, sleeves, and top hats, and even a jolly holiday – Magic Gareth Live! is a Fringe-lite experience without dealing with the crowds, heat, and expensive baked potatoes. Ideal for kids stuck at home, struggling to find a sparkle in their day-to-day activities, this live experience may be precisely the sort of jolt of energy they require.

Magic Gareth Live! is performing daily at 11am from August 2nd – August 9th. Tickets can be purchased from: https://www.magicgareth.co.uk/live2020

And if you’re feeling social, why not give Magic Gareth a follow on Facebook?

Jury Duty – Electric Dreams Online

Created by Joe Ball and Tom Black

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As ‘fake news’ sweeps the globe, a triumphantly manipulative tool prioritised by ad-agencies, social media and (distressingly) politicians, more and more the dangers of this digital age manipulation grow. Toying with this concept, highlighting its intrusions in more than the public sphere, into the private, political, and judicial, Exit Productions have crafted a spectacularly innovative, wily, and layered experience of live theatre with Jury Duty.

Everyone has an opinion, now more so than ever, but just how valuable is your judgement? Are barristers and law degrees worth their salt when Mitchell from Sunderland has seen every episode of The Good Wife? If people think they know better than the professionals, well, this is the opportunity to put those binged hours of Making A Murderer to the test. Jury Duty places you and several others in a virtual court, led by the Ministry of Justice themselves. So how will you find the accused?

A fire, a corpse, and a conspiracy which could sweep the news world and send the country into rebellion, Jury Duty focuses on a new fictitious style of court proceedings being trialled across the UK. A virtual jury will question, deduce, and pass judgement on the defence as part of the recently formed Justice Act (2020). The defendant, Harry Briggs, is accused of arson, manslaughter and murder, and as the jury splits themselves to dive through mountains of evidence, question the defendant and come together to forge a verdict, oddities emerge, stories fail to line up and maybe, just maybe, the experience will ripple from the screen and into your real life.

The intricate level of balancing a story, where multiple players can throw a spanner into the works, elevates Jury Duty from a simplistic narrative into a complex production involving masterfully adept improvisation from Tom Black. Able to interact with the defendant is, of course, unusual for the jury, but the layout of Zoom and incorporation of liveness produces a diverse range from Black, who can respond to the good cops, the bad cops and the sympathetic cops with equal ability.

And while it may solely be Black onscreen, a more sinister presence is felt from The Coordinator, Joe Ball, who by the end of the session seems less orchestrator and more problematic. Involving multiple media, Jury Duty leeches itself into other avenues to force Jurors into their own espionage antics and trust exercises. Daring not to spoil an ounce, don’t be surprised if you begin to question everyone and everything. The intertextual play at work is extraordinary, and though it may panic you at first viewing, the series of documents, audio files, riddles and… well, that’s for the jury to discover…are easy to follow.

Then again, spoilers needn’t worry readers, as each session is unique given the dexterity in the team’s manipulation of events, and of course the refresh of jurors between sessions. Gradually these strangers will form a unit, as the case becomes more investible, reinforced by Black’s emotional performance. The incorporation of Zoom enables groups to banter, divulge and share screens to build upon the mystery. Fear not plunging down the rabbit hole, as Exit Productions maintains a guiding hand, and a friendly steer for key moments.

Calculative, Jury Duty builds on a world it carefully stitches, gradually morphing an engaging piece into an in-depth explosion of drama, intrigue, and beguiling storytelling. If there was a crime for innovation, Exit Productions is unquestionably guilty.

Review originally published for The Reviews Hub: https://www.thereviewshub.com/jury-duty-electric-dreams-online-festival/

Continues until 13 August 2020. Tickets and information available from Electric Dreams Festival website.  

Twelfth Night: Live! – Maltings Theatre

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Adam Nichols

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Suffering from a little cabin fever? Well, how about escaping aboard the SS Illyria with a G&T in hand and scandal unfolding directly from your lounge? This is precisely what The Maltings Theatre is promising with their abridged, musically interactive version of Shakespeare’s classic romantic comedy Twelfth Night – Live! Following a successful run, the team don their best cocktail dresses, headpieces and tap shoes to stage this classical narrative in the Roaring Twenties.

Embracing the medium, where the terms ‘Zoom’ and ‘Live Theatre’ collide – one expects chaos to ensue. Rather than allow it to wash over them, the entire team at Maltings Theatre channel this energy into their performances, aesthetic, and instead of ignoring the platform, work the logistics into the narrative; allowing us to capture multiple angles for dialogue, incorporate editing and animated effects with surprisingly unique outcomes. Inventive and playful, this live incarnation of the play removes aspects but maintains a core of the original narrative.

Sebastian may be absent, but this enables us to get to know our fellow guests – particularly Fabian and Viola, carried well by Will Pattle and Flora Squires. Pattle, in particular, takes the troubling task of introducing the premise of the show, the balance of audience video and audio and switching between camera views. This format comes with drawbacks, as occasional scenes will feature a cameo from Davina in Sunderland as her husband Brian fills his fourth glass, but, if anything, it adds an element of chaotic merriment. The characterisation is there, with Anna Franklin and Emma Watson bringing an intense presence to more extensive roles like Lady Toby Belch or Olivia. As a musical, vocals range from spectacular, courtesy of Hannah Baker and Faith Turner, to acceptable.

As for the musical element, the inclusive ripples of Jukebox moments bring additional character-elements but hinder on occasion. The live instrumental accompaniment conjures feelings of those concert halls and theatres, from what feels so long ago, enhancing the quality of the production. Adam Nichols’ artistic direction, no doubt relishing the ability to shift the production to the digital platform, rouses the cast together as they take on the role of stagehands, technicians, and the previously mentioned musicians. Much of the music has a comedic focus, with characters passing items between frames, and on occasion allowing for a solo piece to build sentiment.

Belting out numbers from Rihanna to Radiohead, tying these artists into the works of Shakespeare is no easy feat – particularly with Twelfth Night, a usually complex choice with a variety of pitfalls. When it works, it’s a triumphant burst of luxury, lunacy and hedonism entirely befitting of the SS Illyria. If it falters, it comes off as a break in the production’s energy and pacing, a seeming sore thumb of artistic choices. When the cast gets going, celebrating the roaring Twenties with a whiskey or toddy, there’s a wealth of enjoyment emanating.

What this concoction ends up as, is a quality, fun piece of interactive theatre which refrains from shying into an easy escape online. Malting’s Theatre dive headfirst into tying the Bard to the bar, relishing the enthusiasm as they plant their flag squarely into the comedic side of Twelfth Night, offering up a few noted moments of committed drama. An authentic send-off to a Shakespearian comedy, drawing the lords, ladies (and yes, the rabble) into the story, Twelfth Night – Live! may be a vast departure from Shakespeare’s original, but this modern retelling has heart, laughs and a 20’s twist worth getting sea legs for.

Review originally published for Reviews Hub: https://www.thereviewshub.com/twelfth-night-live-zoom-maltings-theatre/