09th Nov2015

Lovesong of the Electric Bear (Theatre)

by timbaros

_w_kIINyrk05qdvM9oQeNsgc_E-rrWF6pR0x6LwtCE0,At35341H8GxfRT4nit3Pi0Zu5kCAadcd9TsaN6zDqm8Alan Turing’s life is told, with the help of his teddy bear, in the new play ‘Lovesong of the Electric Bear.’

Yes, you read it right. It’s a teddy bear called Porgy (Bryan Pilkington in a teddy bear suit) who guides Turing (and the audience) through the events in his life. From his life as a young boy in France, where he was a bit different from the other boys, to his time in Bletchley, where he created his machine which broke the German code during World War 2. It’s a strange and unusual little show, currently playing in the small studio upstairs in the Arts Theatre on Great Newport Street, redesigned to look like a codebreakers bunker.

It’s a true story, written by the late Andrew Wilson. Turing evidently did have a teddy bear, and it’s the teddy bear in the opening sequence who awakens Turing from his deathbed and takes him through the journey of his life. It’s an incredible journey, a journey we all know very well from last year’s hit film ‘The Imitation Game,’ which starred Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing. Not much new information on Turing is provided in this production, but it’s the viewpoint of the teddy bear giving advice and opinion on every move Turing which makes is interesting to say the least. And it’s quite funny, and surreal, especially when Turing (played stoically and confidently by Ian Hallard) starts ‘dating’ Joan (an excellent Laura Harling), and he takes her to meet his parents, but it’s always the bear who is in the background giving advise and musing about Turing’s wrong decisions. And it’s also the bear who advises Turing to get far away from the rent boy (Chris Levens, very good in all the roles he plays in this show) that eventually brought upon Turing’s downfall. And of course we all know how it ends, and that’s the sad part, there was nothing the bear could have done for Turing, in the play and in real life. Turing’s was a life cut too short, he was a man too far ahead of his time.

23rd Nov2014

Ghost Stories – Theatre

by timbaros

Ghost-Stories_2836007bWe are advised that Ghost Stories contains moments of extreme shock and tension and that it is unsuitable for anyone under the age of 15. Also, the theatre strongly recommends those of a nervous disposition to think very seriously before attending.

Well, I wouldn’t go that far in saying that Ghost Stories is the scariest show in town (that gong would go to Henry IV Part 1 purely because it is so boring), but Ghost Stories will take you on a ride where a few times you might jump up off your seat but there is absolutely no extreme shock and tension anywhere in the show.

It starts promising enough with our narrator (who runs down a dark aisle hitting punters on the shoulder as he heads to the stage) Professor Goodman (he’s not a real professor but is actor Paul Kemp) who shows the audience a photograph. It’s a simple photograph taken many many years ago of two couples standing and basically having their picture taken. But Professor Goodman explains that there’s more to the photograph then meets the eye. As he zooms in on the photograph, we see a leg and foot behind one of the men, and also one eye peering out from behind the same man’s right hand. It’s a very eerie and unsettling moment for the audience as it is hypothesized whether there is such a thing as ghost. So Ghost Stories starts promising enough and segues into three ghost stories that happened to real people. These ghost stories are re-enacted and are intended to scare the audience even more.

The first story involves Tony Matthews, a security guard who is all alone in a remote location. He radio’s a fellow security guard who’s in another building – a new security guard who happens to Russian who doesn’t speak English well. But things start happening to Tony. The lights flicker and there is a knock on his door. He goes out to investigate and to make sure the locks on an adjacent building are locked. The audience sees an apparition of a little girl, but Tony doesn’t see it. He goes back inside to radio the Russian but can’t get through – the radio strangely has stopped working. He goes back outside and one of the locks from one of the doors has come undone, so enters the room. And in this room is where he experiences the ghost face to face.

The second story is scary as well but is not pulled off. A young man, Simon Rifkind (Chris Levens) is late getting home after a night out and he suddenly hits something in the road. It’s effectively a prop on the stage that looks like a car, very effective. He stops, but decides to drive on. He’s not too sure what he hit but he’s happy with his decision to leave the scene of the crime. But then his car break down, leaving him stranded in the middle of nowhere, in the dark. He call for help, which is on it’s way. He waits in the car and there is a knock on the window. He can’t see what it is, neither can we. But after a few minutes he is face to face with what appears, to the audience, a fake monster on the top of his car.

The last story has Mike Priddle (Gary Shelford) as a father in his soon to be new baby’s room. He’s a businessman, always on his mobile phone. And when he sends a text, he goes ‘swoosh’ and glides the phone in the air, which gets annoying by the second time he does it. Anyway, yes, you can see this one coming, he sees ghosts in the room, not just ghosts but something that levitates in the crib, and then he too come face to face with an apparition.

As Ghost Stories goes into it’s last story, it becomes less and less scary. Sure, the first story was scary, and the second just a bit, but by the third story we become more immune to the surprises that take place, and by the time the show is over Professor Goodman is taken off the stage by a ghost and lies in a hospital bed, to be taken care of by Dr. Rifkind. But then he’s not in bed, he’s back on the stage.