Review – New Wolsey Pulse Festival Highlights

So as the 19th New Wolsey Pulse Festival draws to a close for another year, here are some of the highlights of the final day

This Is All For You – People You May Know

People You May Know is a spin off from the New Wolsey Youth Company, who each year present a piece devised and written by the actors with Associate Director Rob Salmon, usually tackling a particularly thorny subject with humour and insight.

This year’s performers – Joss Oliver and Fred Double –  were looking at the issues of social media and popularity.  And with the rise of You Tube celebrities and the problems of young suicides encouraged by social media platforms such as Intsagram and Snapchat – this was very timely.

With a set of drums to punctuate proceedings and a number of video montages between scenes – this was the story of a nerdy boy desperate to fit in – a story as old as time you might think. But in today’s hi tech world, a socially awkward teenager’s lack of ‘likes’ and being the subject of on line bullying can drive him to the edge and make him question whether there is much point in staying alive.

There were no easy answers – and as the clock ticked down to zero – and the situation became more and more desperate as he tried more and more bizarre stunts to get noticed – it was clear to see how easy it is for teenagers today to be sucked down into the virtual reality of the online platforms – with dire consequences.

A heartbreaking subject told with poignancy and believability by two young performers with an immense amount of talent. Engaging and absorbing, about a subject very relevant to young people today, this deserves a wider airing.

Henry 5 – written by Luke Pearson, Ben Wilson and William Shakespeare –Brick Wall Ensemble

Take one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays – about a king going in to battle against the French in 1415 – and reset it around England’s World Cup campaign in 2018. Put it in the back of a pub with a cast of six rowdy English fans and you have yourself probably one of the best productions I have seen in a long time.

Brick Wall Ensemble was founded by three artists, one of whom is visually impaired, to take classical and contemporary text and combine it with music and physical theatre to create something new and vibrant.

Co writer and company founder Ben Wilson plays Henry King – landlord of the pub Agincourt and life long England supporter. With his friends and pub regulars Yorkie – the granddad of the bunch, Pistol – always a bit of a ‘dick’, Bardolph – who actually earns some decent money so pays for the trip – Welsh boy Llewellyn who tries to keep the peace, and young ‘token girlfriend’ Nym –set off to cheer their team in Russia and follow the boys ‘once more into the breach’.

With lots of football chants and drunken ‘karaoke’ style renditions of old pop classics, we were taken on a journey through the knock out stages to the quarters, discovering some of the characters’ issues and conflicts on the way, while all the time staying parallel to the essence of Shakespeare’s Henry 5 and including as many references as possible to the text, plus recreating the main glory speeches.

This was fast paced – full of energy – brilliantly written and executed and a pleasure to watch from start to finish.

‘Cry God for Harry, England and St Gareth’!

The Animals and Children Took to the Streets – written and directed by Suzanne Andrade – 1927

1927 combine physical theatre, mime, music and stunning graphics to create multimedia shows that have stunned audiences across the world and won multiple awards.

The Animals and the Children is a Grimms type tale performed by writer Suzanne Andrade, Esme Appleton & Lillian Henley who also plays live piano,  in ‘white face’ on a set that is a giant screen on which live animation works with the actors to create a piece of visual, moving, interactive, filmatic theatre.

The story followed the lives of those living on the wrong side of the tracks in the Bayou – unlike its American counterpart a run down city slum. Into their world comes Agnes Eaves and her daughter Evie – who is abducted by a wicked ice cream seller along with all the other children of the slum and is rescued by The Caretaker of the block of flats – spending the money he has saved over many years dreaming of leaving the slums to rescue the little girl.

Technically this is an astounding piece – and the imagination that had gone into the graphics created by Paul Barritt is incredible – but somehow for me it all got a little repetitive – and the wizzy technology in the end got in  the way of both the story and the actors, making the whole piece rather less engaging than you would have expected.

Suzanne Hawkes


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