Review – Pulse Festival 2

The Pulse Festival 2– New Wolsey Theatre – Sunday 3rd June

Sunday saw the trial of a new idea – a ‘pay what you like’ day. And judging by audience numbers – this was a very popular way of presenting new work.

Skin a Cat – by Isley Lynn – Rive Productions

This powerfully visceral, yet surprisingly humorous, play about the awakening of womanhood in an awkward, modern teenager seems to have been doing the rounds since 2016 – but it’s no less relevant for that.

Three actors, Lydia Larson, Libby Rodliffe and Joe Eyre, take us on a journey with Alana from her first period at 9 years old which her rather emotionally distant mother handles very badly, through her attempts at losing her virginity, her long distance relationship with her first boyfriend, sexual encounters at university, a complicated relationship with an older man and her gradual realisation that she can approach sex in her own way without having to follow the crowd

This could have been an awkward and cringe worthy piece – or just out to shock – yet it was instead very sensitively portrayed and staged – never veering over onto the mawkish or crude. Lydia Larson portrayed Alana with a vulnerability and understanding that empathised with all of our fumbling, excruciating first encounters with puberty and sexual awaking. The other two actors played a variety of characters with just a change of voice.

The piece was fluid and absorbing and made the main point – we all want to fit in – but we really don’t have to.

Burning Tails by Eden Harbud

This was very much a puppet show for adults written and performed by engaging Cambridge based artist Eden Harbud. Using cuddly toys – squirrels, frog, foxes – and what appears to be home made props and written out signs – Eden tells the story of a suicidal, chain smoking fox whose relationship has gone awry. It only half way through the piece you realise through taped voice overs that this is actually a child playing with his sister’s toys.

Very clever and well constructed – with great use of sound and lights. Shame about the language as it means it’s limited to 14 plus.

Action at a Distance by Rory Horne – Argonaut Theatre

Argonaut was founded in Norwich in 2017 by writer Rory Horne and director Nina Cavaliero, graduates from the University of East Anglia. The company was recently announced as one of the New Diorama Theatre’s 2018/19 Graduate Emerging Companies. This is their debut production.

In a small Nevada town, out-of-work plumber Chris, played by Rosa Caines, stumbles across Josh (Dom Luck) while exploring dating sites, a charity worker and data analyst exposing the truth behind US drone strikes in Syria and Iraq. She at first wants to impress him and win his approval – but her irascible mother (Nina Cavaliero) is dying of cancer and they haven’t got any money for treatment– and Josh has found a way of making money by betting on the dark web.

Chris offers to help him run the betting in order to make money for the charity. Her aim is to make enough for both of them. Yet her need becomes her obsession and she ends up being hooked into a scheme that exploits the very acts of violence the charity is trying to expose.

Well written and performed  – A moral tale for our times.

Nice Guys by Rob Salmon and Jack Lang – People You May Know

People You May Know is a sort of step up from being involved in the New Wolsey Young Company – and previous shows have been taken as far as the Edinburgh Fringe.

Written in house – they tend to be four handers and involve a far amount of talking to the audience about the problems of being young in today’s world. This particular metamorphosis was an exploration of what it means to be male in a time where it is getting increasingly difficult to find the line – let alone avoid crossing it.

Performed by George Howarth, Sam Pote, Charlie Shephard and Mollie Steward, this was fast paced and slick with the actors giving it a good wack – but the humour at times seemed forced – and the discussion rather one sided. There was really not much to choose between the characters either. Compared to ‘Skin a Cat’ earlier in the evening – and certainly some of the previous incarnations of this idea – it didn’t really have anything to say that hasn’t already been said. We know young guys can be twits – but in today’s gender fluid discussions – is there not more to be said about how the male is portrayed and the utter confusion of expectations from social media verse nurture and nature?

A bit disappointing.

Suzanne Hawkes

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