Review – Pulse Festival 1

PULSE Festival – Thursday 31st May – New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

So here we are at the opening night of the 18th Pulse Festival – once again produced by China Plate – with a varied programme over the next week and a half of Fringe-type work – some fully formed – some works in progress – but everyone with something to say in a time and a country where increasingly art struggles to maintain is voice in the face of cutbacks and lack of funding.

Knot – Nikki & JD

Opening act of the festival was a performance of beauty by a duo who describe themselves as hand to hand acrobalance artists on their website. But this didn’t do justice to a performance that was a combination of contemporary dance and fluid gymnastics telling their very modern love story via the medium of movement and commentary.

Two people meet – fall in love – start working together in the most intimate way – yet one is gay and so cannot consummate the relationship in the traditional sense. Yet through their work they become as close as two people can be, maybe at the expense of forming other relationships.

The Knot of the title refers to the invisible string that runs through any strong relationship – however it’s made to work.

This was a well constructed and beautifully performed piece – with both performers fully in control of the space and the material in a way that made it all look easy. With a complementary selection of music – this was both a joyful and a poignantly emotional experience.

Me&Robin Hood – Hoipolloi

Shon Dale-Jones has been to Ipswich many times before – and I’ve seen most of his shows. I must admit I enjoyed his earlier work as his alter ego Hugh Hughes – which combined storytelling with clever use of media and objects. Now it’s just him and a bare stage – and a cause to bang on about.

The story weaves between his childhood in Anglesey with his best friend Dylan as they get into scrapes, join the under 11 football team and play at being Robin Hood, and the present day where as an adult he had become fired up about the constricting role bankers and money play in our lives.

Childhood Shon finds the key to a bank safe and sets about persuading the rest of the football team to rob the bank with him. Adult Shon ends up being arrested for protesting outside the local bank branch when he finds it increasingly difficult to pay his mortgage.

Shon is an engaging performer – and holds the stage and the attention. The ultimate aim of the piece is to make us aware that however hard up we feel we are not as bad off as third worlds kids. He’s raising money for the charity Street Kids United with a bucket collection at the end of the show, and since 2017 has raised over £20,000.

But somehow being banged over the head with this concept just reminded me of my mother’s phrase when as a child I stared at a congealed plate of rhubarb and custard – ‘eat it all up – they’re children starving in Africa you know’ – to which I would reply in my head – ‘well their welcome to this – but I don’t think I can get it to them’.

There is no doubt there is a lot of poverty in the world – and I think especially in this country we are very aware and engaged – think Live Aid and Children in Need.  But the role of the big charities has come very much under the spotlight in recent months so maybe there’s a different discussion to be had now on how the main stream organisations have morphed into the very thing Shon abhors – and that maybe just giving money is not the way forward anymore.

Suzanne Hawkes

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