Bare E-ssentials 3: with a Vengeance – Encompass Productions

Produced by Liam Fleming, Rachael Owens & Jonathon Woodhouse

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Who says the sequels are never as good as the original? Back with a vengeance, Bare Essentials, one of London’s leading new creative writing evenings returns for their monthly reminder of the talent out there in the world. The now award evening 17th edition (third virtual), is as strong as ever and ready to grab life by the unmentionables and explore unique stories, original creators and some fresh takes.

This evening we’re treated to a quartet of fresh innovative writing, all helmed under the watchful eye of the charming host Liam Fleming. Each comprises different genres, styles and aesthetics, as these four pieces make up a cluster of imaginative premises, exceptionally prepared and thought-out through lockdown and isolation – many incorporating the now normal struggles, working with the limitations of COVID rather than actively struggling against.

Despite what pretences may come with new writings, nothing about Bare E-ssentials is scratch media or a melting pot, these are fully-fledged concepts with finished productions. Evident in the direction and writing, the online format opens up the conceptual dynamics of the shorts, where inspirations from cinema and theatre are seeded into original concepts.

First up, there’s a set of Rules which must always be adhered to in life, especially those concerning sex and friends. Lucy Jamieson’s short production takes two friends stuck at home, Jess and Alex, as they lament the struggles of life, and the difficulties of balancing relationships, friendships, and syphilis. Together the pair have terrific energy and chemistry, and the jarring sense of the comedy settles quickly, with Rachael Owens direction coming over as a Channel 4 pilot episode. It’s the richest laugh of the evening, and the finest way to start.

It isn’t all giggles and comradery, however, as both Emma Dawson’s Stones Around My Neck and Jacquie Penrose’s Listen take a substantially darker turn, well – it wouldn’t be a new writing night without this turn. Sat alone, Deborah Garvey effortlessly holds attention in Dawson’s piece as she reflects on the relationship (or lack of) with her youngest daughter, and the influence she has had weighing down aspects of her life – sombre, it’s an investable performance. Equally, a combination of Fleming’s direction with Amelia Parillon’s performance in Penrose’s chilling Listen, which perhaps adheres to the idea of a shot in lockdown the quickest.

Throughout are reminders as to why the recent session of Bare E-ssentials was the honourable winner of an Oncomm Award. The creativity practicality behind scripts, particularly James C Ferguson’s The Chair, where Jonathon Woodhouse’s direction shows how Encompass Productions takes steps beyond the traditional shot-at-home premise, elevating the pieces and working some of the stretched writing mechanics.

An essential lifeblood for the arts community across the nation, Bare E-ssentials is a brief monthly reminder of the exceptional community we’re at risk of losing. Episode 4 of the online series is due to release on August 26th, and couldn’t be recommended enough with a small glass of your favourite and some solid company. And while there’s no possible way to know what spectacles, wonders and oddities may emerge from that evening, it’s safe to say there will be a tremendous showcase of emerging and undervalued talent.

Further information about Bare E-ssentials can be found at Encompass Productions: http://www.encompassproductions.co.uk

You can catch the third installment, and catch up on the rest, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amwtba7YPN0

SceneToSeen – Permanent Scar

Written by Rachel Flynn

Directed & Edited by Ryan Alexander Dewar

Rating: 4 out of 5.

How far would you go for love? Not just any run of the mill kind of crush, but a genuine connection with someone. Would you wait? Would you be their shoulder to cry on? Or would you allow this ‘love’ to taint, decay and rot into an obsession. It’s more common than you would suspect, and easily ‘written off’ or hidden – as even the ‘nicest’ guys can be the fiercest wolves in sheep’s clothing.

A couple of best pals having a night out. One of whom is in the pangs of a break-up, her life in need of a few comfortable nights, some self-care and one hell of a hangover. The other seeks to help – or so he claims. Rachel Flynn’s Permanent Scar seeks not to place women in the role of victim, lord knows we have enough of that form of media, but instead subvert the expectations and quivering underbelly of rejection, masculine ego and the lifelong effects it leaves. 

Perhaps most concerning, and a testament to Cameron Fulton’s performance, is the credibility of the character, we know this boy, most of us have spent a night in the pub with this chap. Cheeky, charismatic, and garbed as genuine – a distressingly familiar person. A knot sits in your stomach as you reflect, realising that, to begin with, you found Fulton funny, you enjoyed the character, even though something felt off. Direction on the part of Ryan Alexander Dewar, who has already turned a trick with editing, is entirely on point, tight and refraining from grand gestures of unrequired emotion. There’s an unnerving correlation between the distinct lack of overwrought emotion, which could easily have tipped the balance, underpinning Fulton’s controlled performance.

We’ve come to expect awkward greenscreens, bathroom walls and less than stellar framework during lockdown, with various production relying on storytelling over aesthetic, but good lord – hats off to Interabang and Dewar. Those who have followed the company behind-the-scenes will understand how the team re-created the sweaty, neon-dazzled floors of a night club, hopefully without the sticky floors. Their method? Incredibly simple, the effect? Astonishingly convincing.

A distinctive piece of commentary on the part of Flynn – the authenticity of the narrative is repulsive in its accuracy. Living with terms such as ‘friend zone’, empty manifested words to preserve egos, is a tiring experience for women. The assaults, threats and gas-lights of supposed friends, family and companions are not only tiring but dangerous. More than this, there’s a poetic bounce to Flynn’s writing. As slippery as Fulton’s performance, it reinforces him by a deceptive structure where the writing is so charged with imagery and emotion, that it too surprises the audience when it shifts.

Flynn’s language is ultimately accessible, but occasionally, due to the film’s length, Flynn’s use of language has short-cuts for the exposition – which is entirely understandable. The fluid movement drops, only briefly, before thundering into a darker abyss, of brutal – needed – honesty surrounding ‘white knights’ with tarnished armour and selfish goals.

Starting their SceneToSeen season smashing expectations, Interabang productions champion a method of storytelling many are growing more accustomed with. While the short film is nothing new, the wealth of theatrical talent pouring in to maintain their creativity and promote a sustainable online platform is a brief glimmer in the ensuing bleakness. Permanent Scar is a terrific leaping point, which promises others in the series which aim to be clear, concise and thoroughly engaging. Here’s to a successful five-week run. 

Permanent Scar and subsequent ScenesToSeen videos can be found here

Razed & Confused goes Digital – Online

Written by Various

Serving up a digital variation of their usual live den of inequities, Beau Jangles hosts Razed and Confused, an evening of song, cabaret, experimental art, but above all else, an appreciation and promotion of queer artistry. This evening, four producers who are receiving funding and coaching from other creatives manifest their talents, their panache and flair into an evening which promises puns galore, and a few choice dance moves. For your viewing pleasure this evening, the marvellous quartet of Mr Wesley Dykes, Barbs, Brian and Symoné.

Strutting directly in from the forties, with an uncanny grasp of modern-day Zoom etiquette, Beau makes for an engaging host, charismatic, frank and lyrical– precisely the class act one would expect. Refusing to not share in the spotlight, Beau struts their stuff for a brief number or two, revealing a voice as sharp as their dress-sense and thankfully, as sharp as their tongue. Hosting duties stretch beyond the veil of entertainment, as Beau’s song choices reflect a commentary the evening doesn’t scream about but reminds the audience, that on the eve of the Black Trans Lives matter marches, how many more times will white, or cisgender people apologise, thinking these fix everything, how many more apologies will be issued before everything gets sorted.

It’s perhaps the most candid moment of social commentary in the evening, but not the only, as reminders ripple throughout the acts’ song choices, comedic skits, or artistic expression. On the whole, the four acts work triumphantly well, for the most part, with dips occurring in the more experimental elements which fail to offer a sense of identity or focus. Not unpleasant, merely disjointed, where the intent is evident, but the practice requires work.

What are complete pieces, demonstrating canny ability, are Mr Wesley Dykes ‘Dass Ghey As Fuq’, which seems at first to be a simple skit routine, morphing into a well-thought, still humorous, routine on the assumed ownership of hyper-sexuality by Masculinity. Together with Manly Mannington & Romeo De La Cruz, Dykes’ section deconstructs the obsessive masculinity imposed on young black men, and the damaging effects this fetishizing has, and the denial of enabling young women to express their sexual nature. The Black Boi Band routine is easily the most accomplished of the evening, balancing characterisation, movement, and lip-synching – the real weapons any Drag performer can pull out the bag.

Matching Dykes arsenal, Brian too is qualified lip-synch royalty, sharing the crown this evening for most rounded performance. Reading (a fundamental skill) from Womxn Offering Wisdom, Brian takes a more narrative approach with their performance, tying in fluid movements, similarly to queer circus performer Symoné. The pair share an evident ferocity, Brian’s conveyed through their lip-synching, Symoné through her prowess, almost feline movements. Both maintain a core of emotion; however, Symoné frequently recalls the Tarot card ‘Joker’, using a variety of video editing, and capitalises on effects to bewitch and alter reality.

Editing is a skill of Barbs, and while technically excellent, the piece struggles in communicating with the audience. The furthest from live theatre or performance, Barb’s routine lays as a short film, with various forms of imagery, costume, and aesthetical changes to further the film. As a collective, the liveness of Razed & Confused works, largely due to our host, but truly offers a snippet of the tremendous capabilities of these performers and their ability to hold a crowd. Teaming with Something to Aim For – Razed & Confused promotes the necessity of championing queer and black performers and will leave the audience dazed, hungry and ravenous to experience more from the Raze Collective – live or otherwise.

Review originally published for Reviews Hub: https://www.thereviewshub.com/razed-and-confused-goes-digital-online/

Photo Credit: Bruce Wang