Sunday, 20 August 2017

Barbican Theatre 'Bard In The Yard' Twelfth Night @ Royal William Yard REVIEW | LittleEllieMae

I love what the Barbican Theatre is all about- it promotes high quality, accessible work while supporting and developing local talent. This is something that is vital for the South West as we are somewhat disconnected from the rest of the country and industry so making sure that arts and culture can thrive within this hub is very special. 

Over the past three years, Barbican Theatre have created the popular 'Bard In The Yard' series which sees professional Shakespeare productions staged in Plymouth's most beautiful and historical seaside setting, the Royal William Yard. In 2015 they staged 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and last year showed the immensely popular 'Romeo and Juliet'. This year's production is Shakespeare's chaotic comedy 'Twelfth Night'. Jon Nash directs this production, with Ryan Wilce assisting, Kate Rogers as Musical Director, Jules Laville as choreographer and produced by Mark Laville. 

They explain that Twelfth Night is about "parting, identity, cross- dressing and the search for true love.". It follows a disorderly tale of identical twins who get lost from each other after a disastrous shipwreck. To survive "she" pretends to be a "he" and "he" ends up caught in a mad tangle of love. Alongside this, there are hilariously menacing plots made, resulting in all but some bright yellow stockings...!

The cast is made up of eight local professional actors, all of whom take on multiple roles in the show. For some, this could come across as confusing but the use of costume changes as well as the slick performances from each actor portrayed every personality differently and therefore made it seamless for the audience to follow. 

Comedy was the main element of the show; the use of wit and physical comedy had the whole audience giggling. Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare's most humorous plays and this cast delivered it with quick timing, making it thoroughly enjoyable to watch.

Designer, Hannah McArthur, kept things very minimalistic. The set is designed to cater for two venues as generally the outdoor space in the Residence One Garden is utilised but the performance is moved to the indoor venue, the Factory Cooperage, in case of wet weather (which it was during Press Night!). There is actually little of a set, with just a simple blank canvas backdrop and use of minimal props including some chairs, a record player and a tree which also reverts into a jail cell door! Though the simplicity of the design really lends itself to the rest of the production, ensuring the focus is on the actors who then utilise their physicality more than anything. Its well thought out and allows the stunning historical surroundings of the Royal William Yard venue to play a part in the production well too. 

I liked the idea of the use of song and dance, especially as the production boasted a 1920s 'flapper' theme, but the songs with vocals seemed somewhat crowbarred into story, making it seem a bit clumsy and awkward at times. Though I did really enjoy the use of 1920s music and Charleston dance routine at the final bows.

The cast of local actors are a credit to the production. They are full of enthusiasm for the piece and this comes across on stage. The show bursts with energy and is sure to make any audience member laugh, using the most classic words of Shakespeare himself.

The production has had a fantastic run (despite the sporadic Plymouth weather!) and I am looking forward to what the Barbican Theatre and 'Bard In The Yard' has planned next!

Check out their website here to find out more about the Barbican Theatre's work and future productions:

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: I was kindly invited along to this performance by Barbican Theatre but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

FACE 2 FACE Exhibition at Torre Abbey | LittleEllieMae

 I was invited along to review the latest exhibition, Face 2 Face, at Torre Abbey in Torquay. My sister, Flora, and I took a road trip to check it out - just an easy 40/50 minute drive from my home in Plymouth.

 Face 2 Face impressively presents over 30 pieces of contemporary art from the Arts Council Collection at the Southbank Centre, alongside Torre Abbey's permanent collection featuring pre-raphaelite artists such as William Holman Hunt and William Blake.

The exhibition explores 'the art of the selfie', presenting how portraits have evolved over time 'from paint to pixels'. It's a really interesting concept and one that I think will resonate with such a wide range of audiences who are constantly exposed to this technological era of an "Instagram Life". It's fascinating to see how old masters and contemporary art actually holds similar traits and meanings, yet hundreds of years apart.

The exhibition is held across 3 floors of the museum, where the contemporary art is immersed within the permanent Torre Abbey collections in the galleries. A lot of art galleries and exhibitions will generally present contemporary art or pre-raphaelite art separately, rather than side by side, which I think actually creates a better way of comparison - which is the whole concept of the show.

One of my favourite moments of the exhibition was on the staircase leading from the top floor which showcased some gorgeous work - 'The Red Cap - Portrait of a Young Lady' by William Strange (1920) and 'The Children's Holiday' by William Holman Hunt - versus the contemporary work of Marc Quinn's 'Template for my Future Plastic Surgery' and Steve Johnston's 'Punk Portraits'. The portraits, although visually completely different, focus on the human face, its emotion and the ability to change what you look like - whether that be by painting in a perfected colourised light or through the punk disguise and plastic surgery.

I noticed this theme of "perfection" is carried right through the exhibition, making the concept of filters and photoshop that we, as a contemporary audience use, something to strongly empathise with. Its something that people have striven for over centuries and art portrays this through a variety of mediums across time.

I also loved Bettina Von Zwehl's 'Profiles 111' of intensely high definition portrait photographs of babies. This contrasted against the perfectionism shown in the work on the staircase as it gives an insight to reality showing imperfections such as the baby's dribble and earwax. It is chillingly evocative and again, makes a great contrast between the various portraits.

Sarah Lucas' self portraits (1990-98) reminded me of Instagram culture through her nonchalant, candid shots and her humorous titles which are reminiscent of modern day Instagram posts.

David Hockney's 'Gregory' (1974) etching conveys a similar informal style which can be recognised as an internet trend similarly to Lucas' self portraits. I really enjoy the simplicity of the contemporary work, such as Hockney's use of just two colours and the blank canvas of Von Zwehl's portraits. Its a completely different style to the older pieces which juxtaposes the work nicely.

Alongside the professional work, the exhibition showcased art from local schools and colleges. They focused on the topic of identity and produced a fantastic assortment of work, from a thumb painting of Ed Sheeran to pop-art style vegetables. It was completely refreshing to see really high quality work from young creative minds. It didn't seem out of place from the rest of the professional art of the Face 2 Face exhibition.

Overall, we really enjoyed the Face 2 Face exhibition at Torre Abbey. It's a remarkable collection of art from across eras which collate to form interesting contrasts and comparisons, focusing on a subject that is so prevalent in our modern day. It runs at Torre Abbey, Torquay until the 3rd September.

The museum makes a great day out, with not only the art exhibitions but historical displays, interactive activities, stunning gardens and yummy tea rooms too!

I thoroughly enjoyed our time there and I'm really looking forward to visiting again to check out their other creative programmes in the future including the open-air cinema, theatre and workshops.

Big thanks to Torre Abbey for having us!

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by the cultural creative agency, Wonder Associates, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.