Theatre review – MINE

MINE grotto skylightBeneath the serene elegance of Goldney Hall’s gardens, a savage catacomb awaits – a mine filled with gods, lions and bleeding crystals, where seeping damp reminds imprisoned shells of what they’ve lost.

This is the place Holly Corfield Carr leads her audience into, with a powerful piece of immersive theatre riddled through with poetry.

MINE Lions

Written to fit and reflect its setting, the piece begins in warm September sunlight as Holly talks of time and hands each of us a pebble that represents it. We’ve given small glowing lanterns to carry, and follow her across the emerald lawns into the shadowy shell grotto.

It’s a wonderful opportunity to glimpse a place seldom seen, with Holly’s visually evocative poetry adding resonance to the enchantments of the crystal-crowded caves, a thundering unexpected waterfall – a “strange heavenly halfway.”

MINE Grotto water god

With only six audience-members, or rather, guests, at each performance, the feel is distinctly intimate, and Holly addresses us each in turn as she tells tales that bring in myth, history, botany, and the wonderings of the human heart. She invites us to choose cards and read fragments of verse aloud, entrenching us deep in the language of the grotto.

MINE poetry cards“molars,
of when we
were young,
his smell
the moss,”

There are so many words, pouring from Holly’s mouth, and from our own, whilst surrounded by the glimmering roars of coral, water and sculpture, that it’s impossible to take in every scrap. Thankfully Holly has produced a beautiful pamphlet, published by Spike Island, to take away from the performance, and savour in your own time.

Fortunate, really, as Holly makes us relinquish the pebbles she’s given us:

“Because, even now, time is up.
The stone you hold is moving, is sand at your hand.”

This is a performance about the past, both human and geological, and how it hides, hushed, in the ground beneath our feet.

MINE is part of Bristol Biennial, a festival of art.

Holly Corfield Carr

Audience + theatre = Mayfest magic

Nightwalk cr MayfestMayfest kicks off this month (as you might expect) in Bristol, with a line up dedicated to  “presenting a broad range of unusual, playful and ambitious work from leading theatre makers from Bristol, the UK and beyond.” As with last year’s stellar programme. I have a feeling that the main challenge will be choosing what NOT to go to.

The festival runs from 15-25 May 2014, with performances taking place throughout the city,  in venues ranging from Bristol Old Vic Theatre to the Trinity Centre to Leigh Woods, for the tantalising Nightwalk exploratory event with artists Tom Bailey and Jez riley French.

FREEZE! cr Greg MacveanTop of my wish-list are haunting-sounding Butterfly Man (Fri 23-Sat 24 May at Tobacco Factory Theatre), the intriguing FREEZE! with Nick Steur (pictured left), at Circomedia from Fri 23-Sun 25 May, and Laura Dannequin’s intriguing and undoubtedly moving Hardy Animal (pictured below; Sat 24-Sun 25 May at the Arnolfini Auditorium), described as “a tender solo that looks at chronic pain and human resilience,”and “a goodbye letter to a former self and an ode to dance.”

What will you experience this Mayfest?

Explore the full 2014 programme and more.


A Moomin festive show

Finn Family MoomintrollThis Christmas I’m accompanying my middle nephew to see Moominland Midwinter at the egg Theatre in Bath. I know of these creatures, of course, but have never watched the TV series, nor read the tales, so when I found the book Finn Family Moomintroll in my local Oxfam Bookshop, I decided I’d better do my homework and gain an insight into author Tove Jansson’s characters.

The novel begins with the whole moomin family and all their lodgers (who include Snufkin, a worldy-wise scarecrow-like creature, and Sniff, who looks a bit like a kangaroo and is afraid of everything, prepare for hibernation by feasting on pine-needles and snuggling up in bed.

When they wake the long Moomin winter (as long as Finland’s winter, I’m guessing), is over and Moomintroll and his friends head out to explore and have adventures, often prompted by mistakes made with a goblin’s hat (which, they found on a mountaintop), and other things that wash up on the seashore, including an old boat that they sail to a smaller island than the one they live on, encounter hundreds of Hattifatteners’ (who, incidentally, can neither hear nor talk), survive a storm and then have a jolly morning of beachcombing.

There is a dreamy, fantastical feel to Tove’s writing that means you drift along with the characters and accept everything that happens to them. Comfortingly, whatever scrapes they get into are easily solved, sometimes simply by the day ending and the sun setting.

I’m intrigued to see how Tove’s stories will be adapted for the stage, but know from the pay’s description that it will include puppets and a ‘specially-written soundtrack.’

The story seems rather different to the one I’ve read, but features Moomintroll waking early from hibernation to discover a world of snow populated by a variety of curious characters,

It has potential to be absolutely magical – I can’t wait!

The Tempest Within theatre review

The Tempest WithinBristol Shakespeare Festival has been a season of literary riches, presenting the Bard’s plays on hillsides, in halls and even beneath the city in Redcliffe Caves. I was drawn to watch the latter, in the form of The Tempest Within, a reimagining of The Tempest performed in only 40 minutes.

The two actors provided the roles of Miranda, Ariel, Caliban and a female version of Prospero. Miranda and Prospera were cast out to sea when Miranda was only three. Twelve years later, she is on the brink of adulthood and her mother is crumbling – torn between her loving motherly side and the villainous Caliban who possesses her from time to time.

It’s a complex tale about mothers and daughters, and the challenges faced by protective mothers who know they must allow their children to grow up and leave to have full lives, despite the fears this awakes in them. Ariel serves to represent Miranda’s thirst for escape, while Caliban, who Miranda describes as a “villain I do not care to look upon”, and who in Shakespeare’s version attempts to rape Miranda, represents the uglier instincts of motherhood, which Prospera must overcome to save her daughter.

The Tempest Within1

The setting of Redcliffe Caves is particularly apt for this struggle through the human psyche. We arrived on a blazing bright day and wandered into the darkness to follow tunnels lit only by trails of tea lights – an effect that emphasised the impression of entering another world. The arching columns and shadowy stage provided a sense of both the characters’ home and their internal, emotional conflicts.

It’s a totally immersive experience and highly recommended, but bring a jumper (however hot it is outside the caves are very chilly) and a comfy seat to enjoy fully with no distractions.

The Tempest Within is on at Bristol’s Redcliffe Caves until 15 July. Find full details.