Category Archives: Culture

Review: Influence (Theatre Royal Young Company)

By Megan Potterton

The Theatre Royal Young Company return with their latest production this week. Influence is on at The Drum theatre from Wednesday 21st – Saturday 24th August, and is yet another amazing example of the exceptional talent that this young theatre company brings to the stage.

Influence, written by Andy McGregor, is thought provoking, entertaining, funny and at times frightening, and the Young Company have done an amazing job at bringing its characters to life.

The play follows a group of young people who ‘enter a world of illegal data collecting and mind manipulation’ when a local boy goes missing. I will not reveal too much of the plot, as the twists, turns and shock factor of the play truly make it what it is, however the play revolves around technology, adventure, and everything not being as it seems. The writers of Influence have taken inspiration from the likes of Stranger Things, Black Mirror and The Matrix (we were given blue and red ‘pills’/Tic Tacs on our way into the auditorium) to create a story that you can’t help but be drawn into from the very moment the play opens.

Of course, it was not only the play’s plot that captured the audience’s attention on opening night. The company (consisting of a principal cast aged between 14 and 17 years old) immediately brought the play to life with their powerful dialogue and synchronised movements. They created believable and memorable characters and worked incredibly well alongside each other. Each member of the cast was engaging and energetic, adding to the plot with every interaction and facial expression made.

You could certainly feel the energy and excitement of opening night emanate from the cast. Notable performances were given from the young actresses who played Bobby Raferty and Marj Ainsworth, both of whom portrayed interesting and complex characters with what seemed like ease.

The direction, choreography, lighting and sound of this production are also impressive, and definitely play a part in creating a production that leaves such a lasting impact.

Influence is on at The Drum at the Theatre Royal Plymouth until Saturday 24th August. You can buy your tickets here: https://theatreroyal.com/whats-on/influence/#book

British Firework Championships 2019

By Megan Dibben

The British Firework Championships 2019 took place in Plymouth last week. With the amazing turn out of the weather, the outstanding entertainment and the spectacular fireworks displays, it is safe to say the two day event was a brilliant and unmissable one.

There was a lot of speculation as to whether Wednesday night would be worth attending due to Plymouth’s unpredictable weather, however many people were pleasantly surprised by the clear skies; perfect for viewing the fireworks late into the evening. Thousands of people flooded the Barbican’s narrow streets and crowded onto Plymouth Hoe awaiting the firework displays, and by 9pm it was difficult to even roam around the roads due to the amount of people who had arrived. This was an outstanding turn out, and it was lovely to see the people of Plymouth come together for a wonderful night.

The fireworks weren’t the only attraction however, as there were many local acts who performed for the crowds earlier in the evening – and they were spectacular! These included Ocean City Sounds Barbershop Chorus, a four part harmony singing group of around 50 men, Stage Stars musical theatre group and Street Factory dance group. On Thursday evening there were more fantastic performances from Plymkids musical theatre group and Natasha’s Bollywood Dance. These groups gave outstanding performances both nights, adding to the buzz of the evening and providing a wonderful build up to the fireworks displays at the end of the night.

Finally, the moment we all came for arrived, and the first bang of a firework silenced the crowds. The vibrant explosion of purple, red and blue above our heads was stunning, and for one moment everyone was looking in the same direction, watching in awe.

The competitors for Wednesday night were Nemisis Pyrotechnics, Aurora Fireworks and Phoenix Fireworks, however the third display was sadly cancelled due to technical issues. Thursday’s competitors, there were Illusion Fireworks, Selstar Fireworks and 1st Galaxy Fireworks. Selstar Fireworks were crowned the winners of the British Firework Championships 2019 the next day.

All of the displays were absolutely breath-taking however, and I think everyone who watched them can agree with me. Overall, both nights ended on a beautiful finish thanks to these brilliant competitors.

Photo provided courtesy of Will Hexter (Instagram: willh.jpg)

Boardmasters 2019 Cancelled

By Megan Potterton

Boardmasters 2019 has been cancelled by event organisers due to forecasted severe weather conditions.

The major music festival was due to begin in Newquay today, Wednesday 7th August. Florence and the Machine, Wu-Tang Clan and Foals were all scheduled to headline the festival, which was expected to run from Wednesday 7th until Sunday 11th August.

Gates were due to open to festival-goers at 7am this morning, however event organisers released a statement cancelling the event across Boardmasters’ social media channels at 11pm last night.

Here is the official statement:

“Due to forecasted severe weather conditions, specifically high winds, Boardmasters 2019 has been cancelled. 

Following full consultation with all of the relevant authorities including independent safety advisors, Devon and Cornwall Police, emergency services and the Met Office, a final decision was made yesterday evening (6th August).

The safety of you, the fans and attendees, as well as performers and crew comes first, and the potential risk is too severe for the event to go ahead at this time.

Refund advice will be shared as soon as possible – please follow Boardmasters’ social media for official updates. 

We sincerely regret the disappointment to fans, and apologise for any disruption caused to local businesses, performers and crew who were looking forward to Boardmasters as much as we were.”

Fans and artists alike have expressed their disappointment on social media. Sam Fender, who was due to play the Main Stage on Saturday, tweeted:

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Sunday headliners Foals also tweeted that they were ‘Gutted’ in response to the official statement.

Ticket holders have been told to keep an eye on the Boardmasters social media pages for advice on refunds. Great Western Railway have also advised that all unused tickets to and from Newquay this weekend are eligible for refund, including normally non-refunable Advance fares.

Kinky Boots Review: Giving Toxic Masculinity the Boot

By Keiran Potter

A story about family ties and the bounds of friendship, Kinky boots is a fun but moving celebration of humanity. It succeeds in challenging the idea of what it means to be a man, in a world smothered with toxic masculinity. 

A story revolving around a young man inheriting his family business didn’t initially excite the musical theatre geek inside of me. Especially when 1000 pairs of boring brogues are introduced as a plot device. 

However, despite having very little knowledge of the show before attending. I truly loved this musical. It’s silly and fun, yet carries a real message, as great pieces of art often do. It is a political presentation of the working class and the impacts of capitalism and gentrification. More importantly,  it is a touching reflection on masculinity and powerful females, and how humans don’t have to fit into the cookie cutter mould of expectations. Kinky Boots states how the act of accepting people for who they are, is the real key to what makes a man. 

My favourite character was undeniably Lola, the real heart of the show and bringing tears of laughter and of sadness on numerous occasions, portrayed by the talented Kayi Ushe. Lola enters the humdrum city of Nottingham and injects it with her fabulosity. She makes unconventional friendships along the way, allowing the audience to learn the importance of acceptance at the same time as the characters do.

Her presence highlights the power of a pair of heels and passion. The character separates gender from sexuality and shows that all you need is some glitter and determination in order to turn a dream into a future for yourself and those around you. 

The entire cast were excellent, taking you on a real journey with each of their characters. Joel Harper-Jackson, as troubled protagonist Charlie, also deserves a special mention.  At its heart, Kinky Boots is a story about two very different men who realise that, beneath their exterior, they’re made of the same stuff. 

I don’t want to give too much away. But I will say, what an amazing message to share with numerous generations. I couldn’t help but notice the crowd predominantly full of elderly people. To see them laughing along with the numerous drag queens on stage was quite beautiful, an unfamiliar yet stunning dichotomy. 

Looking around further though, I did notice that a lot of the seats were empty. This confused me, as the show progressed and got better and better, with an unmissable moral message. Unfortunately there were just not enough people around to see it. 

I do hope that this was a coincidence and just a quiet night, as I’d hate to think it is the presentation of the characters and subject matter; of drag and breaking down gender barriers, that could have stopped anyone from experiencing this eye opening show for themselves. 

Kinky Boots was on at the Theatre Royal Plymouth from Monday 8th – Saturday 20th July.

Review: CITIZEN (Theatre Royal People’s Company)

By Katie Stote

Love, loss, overcoming addiction and homelessness; these are just some of the hard-hitting stories which are bravely performed by the wonderful cast of CITIZEN.

The city can often feel like an incredibly lonely and isolating place. Amongst waves of anonymous faces, ears blocked with headphones, eyes to the ground and a constant stream of traffic fighting through never-ending roadworks, it’s easy to feel there is no time for human connection, community or personality. Therefore, a production such as CITIZEN could not be more needed or appreciated.

An honest and vulnerable production celebrating community, identity and the scars who make us who we are, CITIZEN is built upon real stories which happened to real people. Those people? It’s very own cast. The unorthodox structure of CITIZEN is the very embodiment of the unique and unexpected journeys taken by each member of the cast, which they courageously share with their audience.

From students to veterans, volunteers to pharmacists, the diverse cast are a representation of the people who make up the community of Plymouth. One member of the cast I even recognised as a barista at the local Costa. This was a simple but powerful reminder, which is at the very heart of CITIZEN, that even the people we see as strangers, the person behind the counter, the faces we walk past in the high street, carry stories and have lived through journeys we could never imagine.

The Theatre Royal People’s Company production opens with a passionate song and throughout the show are real statistics about the people of Plymouth. Some made the audience burst with laughter, others created thoughtful silence. The cast guided us through their stories with grace and creativity, often breaking the barrier between the stage and the audience, creating brilliant moments of laughter and reaffirming the meaningful human connection the production celebrates and encourages.

The free programme each member of the audience is given upon arrival includes a note from the director, Lucy Hirst, within which she says:

We knew we wanted to experiment with creating work in a different way, and that we wanted to do so with faces that really lived and breathed our city. We built foundations from authenticity, and called for bravery from the get-go.

Well, I can honestly say, and I’m sure anyone who is lucky enough to be in the audience of CITIZEN over the upcoming days will agree, they have achieved and exceeded their goal. CITIZEN is an incredible, uplifting and life-affirming celebration of the beauty that can be discovered in the diversity of our city.

The bravery of the cast, standing before a room of strangers and opening themselves up to vulnerability, each telling their story of what connects them to Plymouth, is beyond inspiring. Most importantly, CITIZEN is a compelling reminder that we are all a part of something bigger. We have all felt alone, happy, loved, anxious, excited and a whole other mix of emotions at some point in this city, just as we have all walked these streets and lived our lives here. To quote the opening song, ‘we are Plymouth’.

The Theatre Royal Plymouth People’s Company are performing CITIZEN in The Drum on Thursday 4th and Saturday 6th July. Find out more about the production here: www.theatreroyal.com/whats-on/2019/citizen

Introducing Virina Flower

By Keiran Potter

Though the UK is considered one of the most accepting countries in the world in regard to the LGBTQIA+ community, it is important not to ignore the fact that there is still so much work to do. Until every single queer person feels at home in their own skin we cannot rest. 

That’s why I reached out to several Plymouth Queer nightlife personalities, in order to highlight how Pride has no opening hours. The fight goes on long into the night but so does the fun. Here’s an insight into a drag queen’s perspective of Pride in our city.

Virina Flower (@VirinaFlower), 23, grew up in Ukraine, and takes drag inspiration from their relationship with her/his Mother. Virina represents the unifying power that queer arts have. Drag performance in particular invites people from all walks of life, all abilities, all races, all genders, to inhabit the same space. A space where we’re all just people; the way it should always be.

When asked what advice she would give to queer youth in Plymouth, Virina said, “Be you. I know it sounds cheesy but be openly you. The queer scene here is rising and now that I have the residency at OMG Plymouth I feel like I have a responsibility to encourage people to be free and open. We will always have homophobia/transphobia, but you will never live forever.”

The LGBTQIA+ community in Plymouth is accepting of everyone and has room for a diverse group of performers and queer artists; a family that is ever growing. Virina explains that this includes, “Femme queens like Dixie Macarbe, Trans queen/king Casenovah, a lyric writer and cabaret act like Dex Amfetamine, and even some burlesque representation such as Lady Shakira Diamond.” The list does not stop there however. Plymouth is also home to “Beauty gurus like Arabela ( Jonathan), and of course the traditional British cabaret style Mary Hinge, who also happens to be the current mother of the scene”.

Virina adds, “Each day [in Plymouth] I meet more and more people. If they are confused and they don’t know about the community, then I take my time to make sure they feel comfortable speaking about the LGBTQIA+ community and our struggle. Usually the results are positive.”

So, if you’re feeling invisible, need some support and can’t seem to find it, look no further than the rhinestone doors of OMG Plymouth and The Swallow, where people will call you family no matter who you are.

Virina wants to be a voice for the queer community and do what they love full time. She explains that it is important to be visible, as for every queer artist that is being recognised and celebrated, there are hundreds of non-queer artists. She says that the queer youth of this generation deserve representation, and I couldn’t agree more.

I thought it was important to mark the end of Pride Month by emphasising that we need to celebrate ourselves every single day for the rest of our lives, not just for 30 days. We deserve to be heard loud and clear all year round. So, if you’re a young queer person reading this: find your tribe, be seen when you’re ready. You have a safe space wherever you are, if you are surrounded by likeminded people. Now be proud, you are incredible. 

Pride in Plymouth is coming up in the next month. This will be a time to celebrate the beautiful queerness of Plymouth. I’m sure Virina and many more amazing people will be there, so why don’t you head up to Plymouth Hoe and say hello? Whether you’re queer or just want to show your support for the community, it’ll be a beautiful day to celebrate.

I’ll let Virina close this article, as she solidifies the importance of Queer art. She says, “Pride to me is a feeling. I try to take pride season as an opportunity to be visible. Maybe one day when I’m walking in town in full drag, a kid or a teen or maybe even an adult will look at me and think, ‘Look at him being himself and happy! Maybe it’s not all that bad.’ Be proud! This is our season and our time!”

Happy Pride!

Under (Social Media) Pressure

By Affinity May

Scrolling through social media is one of the most popular pastimes of today’s generation. The concept of websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat make them a perfect way for companies to grow in popularity, in addition to creating platforms to share knowledge and art with the world. However, are these websites merely creating entertainment for today’s youths, or are they putting pressure on young woman and creating unnecessary expectations for us to try and adhere to?

The pressure to be presented as ‘perfect’ is increasing day by day. There seems to be an unwritten rule about how you should look and act. With young girls exposed to this on a daily basis, consequences such as insecurity, low self esteem and limited confidence often occur. 

I spoke to a group of women in Plymouth about their perspectives on this topic, and the answers were devastating. Amie Marie, aged 16, stated, “I feel the constant pressure to change myself to be a better person or to be accepted by society’s harsh rules/expectations”.

Kayleigh Smallest, aged 15, said, “Personally I have felt society’s pressure by the way people comment on things like skin , hair and most frequently the expectations of having ‘perfect’ teeth”.

Megan Symons, aged 17, stated, “I feel like everyone has this (…) ‘if you don’t look like this or don’t do these things, then you are bad’ attitude. It does affect me personally and I know that I need to find ways to combat these negative feelings”. 

Harriet Rogers, aged 16, said, “ I have experienced this pressure on more than one occasion and it has led to me feeling like I’m not good enough, that I’m not pretty enough, not skinny enough, haven’t got the perfect bum etc. As I’ve grown older I’ve realised that it’s not as big a deal as I made it out to be when I was younger, but I know that I’m not the only girl who’s felt this and I definitely won’t be the last” 

Of course social media is not the cause of all vulnerabilities towards young woman, but it is a reason that so many of our young teenage woman are feeling pressure to be presented as perfect online.

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