Digital Caravan Theatre – Small Truth Theatre

Written by Emma Dennis-Edwards, Abi Zakarian and Jessica Butcher

Directed by Yasmeen Arden 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Rolling up to deliver big heart, Small Time Theatre presents their micro plays as a part of their Digital Caravan Theatre. A series of audio plays, ranging in emotions, inspirations and method all tell unique experiences and thought processes which share one thing in common: heart. From the busy streets of the Notting Hill Carnival to the streets where the riches of ages are stored on Portobello Road, The Digital Caravan flings the doors open wide to share personal micro theatre with the nation.

Miraculously capturing the carnival spirit, Emma Dennis-Edward’s writing breathes life into words, provoking the senses into painting the canvas for her. To emulate smells, sounds and tastes is no easy task in audio dramas, and Spirit of Carnival invites you deep into the heart of Europe’s largest street festival with all the aromas, sensations, and spectacles it can conjure.

Writing is one thing, but Danielle Vitalis’ multifaceted performance, which weaves itself effortlessly with the poetic language, enhances the entire scope and feel of the production. Delicate, yet powerful, Vitalis’ rhythmic delivery drifts the audience through the streets of Notting Hill, capturing not only the tone, but the dangers of an unfamiliar police force and systematic prejudices. When Nicola Chang’s sound design, so full of live and vigour, drops suddenly as the talk of crimson streets and politics ripples out, Dennis-Edward’s exceptional ability of storytelling emerges.

Olive has the best trees in London, she’s proud of this, and Olive is a woman who everyone in the street knows by name. Our second play, Enough from Abi Zakarian proffers the concept that just once a day, smile, but don’t plan it or think, just let it flow. A genuine, spritely reading from Lilly Driscoll, Enough takes a delightful stroll down Portobello Road, and the love story between Olive and the street she lives on.

Where Enough stands apart from what it seems, is Zakarian’s acknowledgment of the street’s past, and that though now the vendors, singers and buyers of Portobello are as colourful, diverse, and eccentric as possible, this hasn’t always been the case. Tackling the area’s history with slavery, Driscoll injects a pang of knowing into her performance and while slightly less refined in its writing style, it is by no means less effective with its emotion or poetry.

They’re fast approaching, September Skies, but before they do Jessica Butcher approaches the futures of young listeners and stokes their imaginations with a with a tale of growing up, finding your way and realising that quite often, the paths laid out for us may not be the ones we’re destined to take.

Playful, Safiyya Ingar’s characterisation of Kite takes flight with ease, though her tone does aim for the younger crowds more often than not. In way of sound design, the production offers little outside of the reading, save for occasional world-building numbers and additional moments of composition.

Individually, some productions garner more merit than others, but the collective does share similarities beyond their audio media. There’s a profoundly personal stamp on each production from their creative teams which speaks volumes to the intentions and capabilities of all involved. Spirit of Carnival may be the standout feature, but both Enough and September Skies speak to audiences across various demographics to drive an inclusive series of productions.

Available to listen here

Review originally published for The Review Hub

The Lark – Bellfield, Portobello

The Lark
Performances 4th – 8th June, 7:30pm Bellfield, Portobello
Tickets £12 advance, £15 on the door

Written by Jean Anouilh

Translation by Gill Taylor

Directed by Claire Wood

Cast to the flames, Joan of Arc, heroine of France, was a peasant girl who on the instruction of God was to lead a siege against the English, paving the way for the coronation of King Charles VII of France. Whether reality or legend, she is captured and condemned to burn. A politically motivated crime of heresy was attributed. Partially for conversing with angels, but really, her only crime was what lacked between her legs.

The Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group are renowned for their dedication to texts other companies shy from. They find virtue in challenging their performers and crews. Their latest production brings Jean Anouilh’s play The Lark into the 21st century, translated by Gill Taylor.

Surrounding us are the rose-tinted windows of canonised saints, the cushioned soft wood of a pew replacing the raised levels of a theatre. EGTG are staging The Lark in a previous house of worship, Bellfield, Portobello an old Parish church. It’s setting does nothing but heighten the effect of the production. We are not solely reliving the memories of Joan as she is on trial – we ARE the memories. We sit in the centre of her life, the action surrounding us.

Claire Moland & Cara Doherty – Photography, Jon Davey

The fire commanded by Clara Doherty is remarkable, knowing precisely how to scorch the stage in glory of passion, malice and retribution for all women scorned by men in power. Yet, she has a softness to Joan, a relatability. She tempers her flames into a smoulder to empathise spiritually, forging a connection with the audience. Any performance alongside Doherty is immediately uplifted with such talent to play off of, Gregor McElvogue and Richard Godden at their best when kept on their toes by Doherty.

You can judge the merit of someone by the quality of their enemies. For McElvogue, Wendy Brindle and High Inquisitor Alan Patterson, wickedness never looked so appealing. Not even the church though, with its outright infection of patriarchal structure, is painted as a grand antagonist. Instead, there’s a deep, unearthed respect for Joan. None more so than McElvogue, perhaps the standout performance outside of Doherty.

Gregor McElvogue – Photography, Jon Davey

What Gill Taylor’s update achieves is levity, director Claire Wood’s spot-on ability to draw from each character capturing the text tremendously. With an American King of France, the accent at first raises an eyebrow, but no one could have carried this role better. Channelling his inner Gene Wilder, Keegan Siebken brings such a jovial nature to the performance, his otherwise lengthy conversations with Joan are transformed into scenes we crave. Her passion, brilliance and mirth counteract his gloriously pathetic cowardice sublimely.

A terrific live band set to provide a backing score which works wonderfully. Again, our setting was designed for this sort of acoustics and when paired alongside a choir upon high, even the heretics amongst us find beauty.

Kate Stephenson & Hannah Bradley – Photography, Jon Davey

In an attempt to bring Joan to the 21st century, the inclusion of popular songs adds a double-edged effect. On occasion, they are placed well, particular as a soldier’s song – an update on a tradition shanty. Or Hannah Bradley’s vocals, delicious addition to the role as the King’s mistress. It otherwise hinders the finale, Anouilh’s ending is peculiar, toying with preconceptions of Joan’s fate. The odd twist is given an EGTG spin which, while commendable push a little too much on abstract.

Smashing expectations of women six-hundred years ago, it’s certainly time for a reminder of Joan’s capabilities wouldn’t you say? The expectation of women in have altered, but the demands met by toxic masculinity are still prevalent. EGTG’s The Lark is a production to be proud of, in a location which reminds us profoundly that theatre can exist in any setting.

The Lark
Performances 4th – 8th June, 7:30pm Bellfield, Portobello
Tickets £12 advance, £15 on the door

Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group are revitalising Joan of Arc – The Lark

Image Contribution: EGTG

The Lark
Performances 4th – 8th June, 7:30pm Bellfield, Portobello
Tickets £12 advance, £15 on the door

Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group (EGTG) intend to capture the passion, ferocity and fires of Joan of Arc by staging their contemporary translation of Jean Anouilh’s The Lark in Bellfield, Portobello from June 4th – 8th at 19:30pm.

It is one of the world’s lengthiest wars. A peasant girl of seventeen leads an army of men into battle, claiming victory against the English, shaping France’s future. Her rise to prominence was instructed by the Lord, or was it simply her own ambition? She did not meet her end in battle, however, instead consumed by the flames of her suppressors. Unable to find her guilty of actual crimes, her patriarchal enemies found her guilty of, what else? What she was wearing.

Living through an entirely different, though no less severe war the translation from Jean Anouilh sought to inspire French identity following WWII. A contemporary translation from Gill Taylor is now receiving a Scottish Premiere looking to recapture the will and passion of Joan for a modern audience.

Image contribtuion: EGTG

Director Clare Wood states that; “Although Joan lived and died nearly 600 years ago, her story feels incredibly current”. Citing young women’s fight against the blindness of contemporary world leaders. In a society where women’s ‘behaviour’ is still called into question, Joan of Arc is perhaps the most poignant choice they could have made.

Noted for their determination to produce challenging texts, one of the city’s most respected amateur companies is reviving Joan, bringing solidity to legend. Promising a choir, playlist and house band set to inject fire into the blood, Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group are primed to bring fifteenth-century revolution to Scotland.

Staging could not be more appropriate within Bellfield, a previous house of worship. EGTG are humbled at producing the first piece of theatre for the venue, paving the way for future productions staged in the Celebration Hall.

Image contribution: EGTG

The Lark
Performances 4th – 8th June, 7:30pm Bellfield, Portobello
Tickets £12 advance, £15 on the door