Sunday, 30 August 2009

For The Love Of Dog

I didn't use the stimulus photo because the Dog Lady video was a sort of a sequel to another piece I'd already written about her.

Zoe Alyssa Cooper once again played Karen, she was really the only choice after leaving such an indelible mark on it the first time around.

Starring Zoe Alyssa Cooper and directed & edited by Benjamin Roberts, this was shot on location with London's Hoxton Square doubling for New York's Central Park.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Dog Lady Stimulus

Behind The Bike Shed is currently gearing up for its next show, the first with which I'm not involved. The dates just didn't work out. They'll be in London's Hoxton Square on the 6th of September.

The previous show was In The Frame, in which each scene was accompanied by a photograph which was a stimulus of sorts.

This photograph was the companion piece to the Dog Lady video, it was taken by Tiziano Niero and I didn't use it...

Monday, 24 August 2009

The White Rose

The reviews for the Edinburgh run of The White Rose:

Reviewer: Jessica Elgot
August 2008

It is Munich 1942 and terror has gripped the citizens of Nazi Germany; this is the tale of the people who refused to be ruled by fear. A true story, it is based on the beginning of the White Rose Nazi resistance movement, and is beautifully acted, the tension so well evoked that one terrified audience member cried out when the young movement's leaders decide to fight the noble cause that will lead to their execution. However, a mere forty minutes of a story with such human anguish and historical intrigue felt overly fleeting. Nevertheless, it is testament to the skill of this talented company that it was torturous to be left hanging just as the action began, knowing the tragedy that was to come.
tw rating: 4/5

"Timeless parable of ideas over self-interest"
Reviewer: Paddy Cooper
August 17, 2008

Yesterday, I gushed with admiration of MMVI Theatrical’s psychological tour-de-force ‘The Poisoner’s Tale’. I suggest loyal readers gird their loins while I prepare to do the same for the show they are playing in rep therewith – Melanie Boyce’s historical drama and timeless parable of ideas over self-interest ‘The White Rose’.

The show is inspired by the true story of The White Rose movement, devised by four friends – Hans Scholl, his sister Sophie, Christoph Probst and Alexander Schmorrel – who distributed inspirational pamphlets throughout wartime Germany urging opposition to the Nazi regime before paying the ultimate price at the guillotine on being discovered.

Boyce has decided to deal with the story’s origins rather than its outcome, ending at such a point as to allow the audience to experience in the hours after it ends the slow-burn of personal decision if faced with the question “Recant or die” and doing so with the bold but blisteringly effective simplicity that MMVI Theatrical have made their trademark at this fringe.

The use of protracted silence at the beginning as Hans and Alex sit studying and writing was potent without undue discomfort – it was not the silence of ball-busting import or the silence of ball-busting forgetfulness – it was a measured, well-executed (if you’ll forgive the term) silence that bespoke calm and comfort between actors/characters and engendered a feeling of intense interest in them in the audience that was a perfect hook to the start of play that would require much of the audience’s broad emotional palette.

The same cast that so expertly rendered ‘Poisoner’s Tale’ yesterday are back and in as good a form, though in a different mode and character style. Light-hearted banter and genuinely sharp humour turns sharply to intense seriousness and was effected with grace, skill and emotional athleticism. They created palpable tension without the melodrama that could so easily arise from a story of such swift and terrible power and built up the electric charge that bristles throughout by the time Sophie delivers her final, chilling line.

The notable thing with cast mentions on this occasion is that one can say that each actor had their chance to stretch their legs in a different direction and prove their worth in terms of versatility.

David Black, the caustic D of ‘Poisoner’s Tale’ makes the role of Hans Scholl his own – a steel core of self-knowledge, responsibility to his sister and absolute devotion to his cause is coated with a measured, calm, personable disposition which nevertheless did not mask his inner fire, gently painting a character portrait of nuanced tones.

Mark Collier shed the more pronounced bittersweetness of C in yesterday’s show to allow a greater stridency to come through in his portrayal of Christoph – commanding an easy authority and a gently noble regard of torn sensibility as the idealistic if necessarily cautious family man and crusader.

In the brimstone left behind after his volcanic performance yesterday, Brogan West has found a rich vein of acidity (in wit and bluntness) to add to his role as Alex. Alex – the one whose words need watching – was portrayed with a just fire that burns with a sense of impatient frustration, and in a very well-rounded manner for a part which a lesser actor could so easily have made worryingly two-dimensional

Natalie Wakelin carries a heavy burden in this show – not only closing the show in a manner which commands huge respect, but also showing the development of Hans’s younger sister from bright-eyed new student to key proponent of peaceful resistance with clear storytelling capabilities and great poise, coming firmly into her own in the second act and closing with the set jaw and pride of a ship’s figurehead, and perfect judgement of the emotion and tone needed.

With calm assurance, in a mode of performance where intentions were stated clearly and robustly without recourse to melodrama, the team at MMVI Theatrical have created two shows which link together well while retaining their own identity, the overlaps interesting without being laboured. Above all, director Melanie Boyce and her cast have shown, especially through ‘White Rose’ that, in instances where ideas matter, anger can be a virtue, frustration a catalyst and justice a matter that requires idealists to effect its truth, even in the hearts and minds of others. Of course, nothing comes for free – here, the price paid is the price of heroes. How fitting that they were so heroically portrayed.

Theatre Wales doesn’t offer star ratings for shows, but I think in this case, we can probably chuck MMVI Theatrical in a minor galaxy and let them take their pick. In the meantime, someone give them a tour, there’s good chaps.
"An excellent production"
August 14, 2008
Reviewer: Liz, England
5 Stars

What must it have been like, to live in Germany during the second world war but to disagree with the actions of the regime? This high quality production gives us a stunning insight, with the cast creating a strong atmosphere of tension. This excellent production deserves a larger audience.
"Excellently acted"
22 August, 2008
Reviewer: Iain, Scotland
4 Stars above it does leave you wanting more...but that must be a good thing. The pace is superb winding the tension up like a spring until the finale. The space is intimate - you almost feel as if you are sitting at the table. The writing was taut - not a wasted word - well worth seeing.

Friday, 21 August 2009

The Poisoner's Tale

Here are various reviews for The Poisoner's Tale:

Reviewer: Lucy Knighton
August 15, 2008

"Someone whispered poison in his ear, now it's spreading". The poison may be spreading but so should the praise for this outstanding, thought provoking and superbly acted production. It's quite uncommon to form attachments to nameless characters, but the beautifully-crafted monologues are performed with such passion and sincerity that one cannot help feeling engrossed as their language and mental states evoke a devastating slide towards destruction. A fine balancing act ensues between the real and surreal elements of the play, prompting questions regarding the force of ideas and the venom with which you should act upon them. As the wine flows and the debate heats up, the question is asked: would you ever die for your belief in an idea?
tw rating: 4/5

"Beautiful, vital and viral"
Reviewer: Paddy Cooper
August 15, 2008

As an arts resource, Theatre Wales has always prided itself on covering the best of theatre from within and travelling to Wales. However, two products of an Aberystwyth-based theatrical education, Melanie Boyce and Natalie Wakelin, under the aegis of the company MMVI Theatrical, have taken two new plays, the product of their own separate and collaborative writing and Boyce’s direction, to the Edinburgh Fringe in a move that puts a new mark on the Fringe and a new gloss on how we look at human nature and emotion.

The first of these – Wakelin’s “The Poisoner’s Tale” (I will cover its sister show – “The White Rose” tomorrow) is a theatrical banquet: rich, meaty, gruelling in its intensity and ultimately highly satisfying, despite the necessarily stomach churning journey that it sends its audience on.

The plot, such as it is, is fairly simple to relate – three friends, only named B,C and D, attend a dinner hosted by a fourth, A, in order to discover the root of his increasing depression. However, the ‘poisonous thought’ which they uncover spreads its venom throughout the group and an emotional and linguistic breakdown is unleashed.

Wakelin’s script is by turns highly stylised and grimily earthy, but these shades and tones, which could jar if read on paper, becomes immediately normative because of the easy interaction of a staff comfortable with each other as they strip back layer after layer of unease towards the barnstorming climax. Word association games, which arrive unannounced, add to the polish of the script, even if a lesser company could make them tremendously awkward. The facial expressions of all four – Brogan West as A, Wakelin herself as B, Mark Collier as C and David Black as D – are very fine, acting as both mask and revelation throughout, perfectly embodying C’s speech on the delicacy of colour in life.

Indeed, all this colour emerged in a potent, mind-embracing spectrum in all the aspects of the performance. There were moments which grudgingly accepted a victory of silence, while, later, as A’s mental state is exposed, noise – his own and a conversation-drowning, pre-recorded variety, triumphs over the expression of ideas and ideals which Wakelin has propounded with a masterly grasp both intellectually and artistically.

This is a show in which the script is the star, but to allow that star to shine, one needs equally scintillating performances, and all four actors glittered equally, under the expert direction and discerning eye of director Mel Boyce.

Collier gave a performance that defined ‘bittersweet’ – his lightly-handled (but not lightweight) responses added colour without being overpowering and was a finely-placed balance to other performances without being subservient to them. Wakelin’s B retained, even in her more painful moments, a great elegance amid existentialism, making her point without resorting to hauteur.

Black’s D contributed richly to the humour of the piece – a humour which performed a complex and delicate dance on a shiny knife-edge that reflected the best and worst of human nature. However, his exposition of more darkly goading potential and his descent with the rest of the characters was also equally well-portrayed.

Brogan West, as the originally-poisoned A, was a whirling, mesmerising force throughout, gently percolating before a Vesuvian eruption, spreading to the rest of the cast, which was lung-draining to watch. Never was horror more normalised, never was profanity more poignant than in this show.

We live in a culture where the Arts are under constant threat, yet weighty and revered companies always state the need to promote the very best in new writing. Let them look, let them all look, with open minds and chequebooks, to MMVI Theatrical’s work, starting with ‘The Poisoner’s Tale’. After all, they have until the 23rd of August to go and see it at Venue 36.

Brutal and beautiful, vital and viral, ‘The Poisoner’s Tale’ holds in its hands both the world’s poison and its antidote. Which will you take?
"intense but worth seeing"
11 Aug 2008
Reviewer: nan, U.S.A.

These four actors were so believable at one point I almost thought I was going to join in on the conversation and add my two cents to the philosophical conversation. The very intimate, small theater adds to the fun of it all. We are definitely going to go back to see the White Rose with the same four actors. To me, this is what the Fringe is all about.

The cast from left to right: Brogan West, Mark Collier, me, Natalie Wakelin
August 24, 2008
Reviewer: Paul, UK
4 Stars

This wasn't what i was expecting, but engaging all the same. The tension was palpable throughout, the characters well rounded. For me, to hinge the whole story on one proposition was a mistake. My psychological training tells me that one factor alone will not lead to such a breakdown. More could have been done to explore the other factors leading to the bleak ending. This play has potential and in a longer form, i feel would be more rounded.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009


The Edinburgh Festival is currently in full swing and I'm not there. I could go, but I've already missed half of it.

Last summer, I was lucky enough to be cast in two plays performed there. Being there the whole month was a great experience. A strange bubble exists in Edinburgh in August and I found myself daily bumping into friends from London I hadn't seen for ages on the Royal Mile. I was more than a little spoilt by the experience and now I don't think I could go as a punter.

It was fantastic, a whole month of alternating between the two shows, flyering, postering (see above) and more theatre than you could hope to see in a lifetime. If you haven't been, go.

The Poisoner's Tale, written by Natalie Wakelin, follows a dinner party conversation between four friends. Four friends who probably should not be friends. I played D.

Melanie Boyce's The White Rose concerns the true story of a group of Munich students who ran a campaign calling for active opposition to the Nazis during World War II. I played Hans Scholl. As The White Rose is on the cusp of being remounted, it seemed like a good time to take a look at the reviews.

Since The Scotsman chose to review both shows together I've posted it separately:

The Scotsman
Reviewer: Jay Richardson
14 August 2008



HERE are two plays performed on alternate days, linked by the same cast, the spread of ideas, and the application of free will. The White Rose is the more conventional, though aspects of the word association games played in its counterpart connect them. It's an account of the Munich philosophy students who opposed the Nazi regime with an anonymous leafleting campaign, and shows how the four struggled to weigh their consciences against the fatal consequences of the Gestapo discovering them. Alex is fired up for action, but family man Christoph counsels caution, even as Hans argues in vain to dismiss his sister Sophie from their inner circle. Caught between a fascist state and their principles, The White Rose's choice is no choice at all – recant their beliefs or die. Yet they retain a sense of purpose envied by their parallels in The Poisoner's Tale.

At a tense dinner party, B, C and D dispute the best approach for handling their host, A, prone to nihilism since the collapse of his relationship. C raises The White Rose's example and asks whether any of them would lay their lives down for a cause. Probably not is the implication, as A's brutal self-analysis begins to infect them all, forcing them to confront their trivial existences. But, while The White Rose derives authority from historical events and the sacrifice of its protagonists, the script of The Poisoner's Tale never convinces that the superficiality resides wholly in its characters. The abiding message is that the freedom to choose may be fraught, but get a grip, people have died for it.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Deceptions - Last Night

After seventy-four performances in nine venues over ten weeks and using eighty bags of salad, fifteen bottles of ginger ale, ten litres of apple juice and three boxes of chewing gum: tonight is the last night of the Deceptions tour.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Deceptions - Malvern

Deceptions is now at its final venue: Malvern Theatre(s) from Monday the 10th August to Saturday the 15th of August.

Evening performances Monday to Saturday at 8.00pm
Matinee performances Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm

Malvern Theatre,
Grange Road,
WR14 3HB

Box Office: 01684 892277

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Deceptions - Receptions 5

Reviewer: Lynne Milford
June 2009

What A Tangled Web These Actors Weave
Never has a name been more suited to a play. At the outset of Deceptions, the action starts with psychiatrist Julia Smythe (Michelle Collins) holding a session with a client, who gives his name as Adrian Wainwright (Rupert Hill).

The audience is quickly drawn into the first scene, which is full of humour and mild sexual innuendo - perhaps not suitable for the easily offended.

But the play soon takes a darker turn and the deceptions become more and more elaborate.
I half-spotted part of the ending, but I was delighted to find I was completely wrong about the final deception.

It was a fantastic play with some superb acting by both leads - my friend was amazed they managed to carry the whole play with only the two of them.

Wednesday’s performance was the first in a national tour, but was almost seamless and clearly very well rehearsed.

The few slips that happened seemed to be part of normal conversation and didn’t draw the audience’s attention.

Both actors certainly proved their worth in performing comedy and the slightly darker, more dramatic scenes in the play.

My friend and I were delighted with the glimpse of Rupert Hill’s naked buttocks and were disappointed they didn’t reappear later in the play.

All in all, a great performance of a very well written and thought out play - my friend summed it up perfectly with the words “a good night out”

Reviewer: Sarah Hardy
14th July 2009

If you like a twisting and turning bit of drama this is for you. I wasn’t too sure what was going on at times (no surprise there, I know!) but the plot did weave itself round and round as the two central characters tried to outwit each other.

This great little drama sees analyst Julia Smythe, convincingly played by Michelle Collins, who you’ll remember from telly’s EastEnders as scarlet woman Cindy Beale, who receives an interesting client played by Rupert Hill, who was recently Danny (sic) Baldwin in Coronation Street.

He had an axe to grind and she had to sort him out that’s about all I can reveal. You certainly won’t guess how it all turns out, but there’s also an older women, younger guy thing going on to (sic). And that’s before I mention bare bums!

It’s always interesting to see soap stars in action in a “real” piece as you do wonder - can they actually act then? And the answer here, thankfully, is yes. Two hander plays are tough going as there’s nowhere for anyone to hide, but the pair keep the suspense and credibility going right to the end.

The play is written by Paul Wheeler who mainly writes for TV, and this, perhaps, shows. It would certainly sit well on the small screen where you could make more of the tension and the inner turmoil and confusion experienced by the duo.

Reviewer: Mike Jarvis
28th July 2009

A Polished Performance Which Captivates To End
WHAT do you get when two of the UK's most popular television stars come together on stage?

Answer – a composed, polished performance that leaves you captivated until the very end.

Deceptions, starring former Eastenders' baddie Michelle Collins (who played Cindy Beale for 12 years) and Rupert Hill (best known for his role as Jamie Baldwin in Coronation Street) runs at the Hall for Cornwall until August 1.

The play is described as a "thriller" – but for me the words 'tense' and 'comedy' are a more appropriate description.

Starring only two characters, Deceptions focuses on the lives of psychiatrist Julia Smythe (Michelle Collins) and compulsive liar Adrian Wainwright (Rupert Hill).

The stylish Miss Smythe is left baffled when a young man walks into her office and feeds her extravagant lies about his personal and family life, seemingly for a bit of fun.

But as the two characters become engrossed in each other's lives, they continue their battle of wills – toying for the upper hand in a game of cat and mouse.

However, it soon becomes apparent that these two have far more skeletons in their cupboards than you would ever have believed.

It all comes together in a scintillating ending that left many audience members on their feet.

Rupert Hill is brilliant as the spoilt brat of a rich-kid family and Michelle Collins is every inch the sophisticated professional who we are meant to believe – with a weakness and a past she would rather forget.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Deceptions - Windsor

Deceptions has reached the Theatre Royal Windsor from Monday the 3rd August to Saturday the 8th of August.

Evening performances Monday to Saturday at 8.00pm
Matinee performances Thursday at 2.30pm and Saturday at 4.45pm

Theatre Royal Windsor,
Thames Street,

Box Office: 01753 853888