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.  

Faust – Royal Opera House

Libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré

Score by Charles Gounod

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Navigating the human condition, to the eventual judgements of heaven’s light and hell’s fire, Faust holds no prisoners in its sumptuously decadent retelling of the infamous man who sold his soul for wealth, power, and vitally in this iteration, a woman. The Royal Opera House presents its 2019 recording of Faust as the latest in their online catalogue, revelling in Jules Barbier and Michel Carré’s colossal libretto set to the mesmeric and insane score, courtesy of Charles Gounod.

As a man driven in his lust for flesh, that of the young Marguerite, Michael Fabiano’s Faust comes across as more hollow than charismatic, with a tremendous amount of the character’s foppish tendencies reliant on sharing the stage with equally powerful singers. That is until Fabiano can perform efficacious arias in the latter half, though once more his strongest moments are when he is able to bounce off another, such as the breath-taking climax as Marguerite’s soul is delivered from damnation.

Irina Lungu’s descent into madness as Marguerite has an awkward midsection in Lungu’s range, where her capabilities lie in extremes. Wholesome and virtuous or broken and ‘tainted’, she seems incapable of a balanced transition between the two, and her performance, when at its peak, is as dramatically exaggerated as opera can achieve, but there’s rarely a soft moment during Faust.

It is extravagant, animated, and decadent and one would follow Erwin Schrott’s Méphistophélès into the gaping maws of hell, as he quite literally smashes every note. A trickster, Schrott playfully takes his stand on the Royal Opera House stage during a triumphantly blasphemous Le Veau d’Or. Schrott’s baritone, dipping into bass, is as Faustian in capabilities as to be expected, without stressing his range as he climbs or slithers down octaves.

A nightmarish danse macabre, the infusion of extensive dance routines could stretch the runtime of an already lavishly extravagant opera, but Faust avoids bloating, weaving the movement so seamlessly into the narrative, it enhances the surrounding chorus and themes. With the exceptional camerawork, moments become tangible, forcing the watcher into regions often unseen from across the stage. Grim, unearthly, and monstrous visions of splendour surround Faust as memories are roused from their grave as mere playthings for the ballerinas to tease and torment, all captured in tight angles, with focus on the grotesque make-up or facial expression. Dining on beauty, the pace of the orchestra matches wits with the structure of the movement, the two goading one another into bombastic chaos, never slipping in quality or ability – Un, Deux et Trois makes for an exceptional way to begin the final sequence.

The Royal Opera House Orchestra swoops amidst the styles and forms of genres, permeating burlesque showmanship, cacophonies of classical arias and even the occasional metal ripples to reinforce Faust’s feckless self-determination. Led by Dan Ettinger, the sharper notes from the woodwind sections are well taut among the soft scurries from the orchestra pit.

Luxuriantly embracing its shadowy nature, Faust too often turns its sights towards dancing with the devil – though who can blame them?

Review originally published for Reviews Hub: https://www.thereviewshub.com/faust-ourhousetoyourhouse-royal-opera-house/

Faust is Available to stream here