Tag Archives: youth

Review: One Under

By Keiran Potter

‘One Under’ is a production presented by Graeae and Theatre Royal Plymouth, and is a show that becomes a thrilling scavenger hunt for jigsaw pieces. But even when all the pieces are found, you are still left believing you are missing another piece of the puzzle. A piece that you may never find in the duration of the production and the time that follows.

One Under was an emotionally charged show that left me scratching my head, and I say that in the most positive way possible. I am the kind of person that, when I read something or watch something, I am only truly satisfied when I am presented all of the answers in their entirety. One Under was an exception to the rule, bringing more questions at its curtain call, than it had posed throughout its runtime.

Dealing with important themes such as suicide, mental health and racially charged issues, this story is presented in disorderly fragments, displaying the holes that are left in our lives when someone we love leaves us with no real explanation. The pain that comes from not knowing the story and true feelings of another.

I feel slightly uncomfortable trying to fully portray some of the racial themes. As a white man, I don’t want to incorrectly interpret some aspects of the production. However, what stood out to me was the way in which ethnic minorities were criminalised by society in this production, perhaps something that unfortunately mirrors aspects of real life. They are collectively judged and can be made to feel guilt just for the colour of their skin. Our titular character, Sonny, discusses this and his feelings of obligation to do good deeds as an unnecessary act of reparation. It really raises questions, and highlights the cross sections of discrimination, mental health and suicide within our society.

I don’t want to give too much away, as this production is a brilliant one. However, I would like to finish off by highlighting how brilliant the acting was through out. Whether it was during the most emotional scenes or the comedic moments, every actor became a truly believable, realistic character. In doing so, they brought the important topics and themes explored, that much closer to home.

Review: The Cunning Little Vixen

By Keiran Potter

Going into The Cunning Little Vixen, I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t even realise it was an Opera until the very last minute and I think I was better off for that. Instead of going in with a set idea of what would happen, the story unfolded in front of me like the vibrant pages of a fairy tale. It really was quite magical and equally as charming.

I think I originally had a very different and narrow perception of what an Opera actually was. I thought it would be serious and dramatic. I’m not saying it wasn’t those things but it was certainly much more than that. 

Broken into three acts, this magical story follows a cast of forest animals but more specifically the Cunning Vixen herself. We follow her through her capture and escape from the Forester. We are then privy to how through her actions she inspires many, humans and animals alike. A story of two enemies becoming equals.

Another thing I truly wasn’t anticipating was the stunning set design and costuming. It had such a vibrancy and irreverent energy to it. The acting was phenomenal. The only thing I would say is, sometimes I was too busy captivated by what was happening on stage, that I forgot to look up to the small screen that subtitled the Czech Vocals. Nonetheless, the energy outgrew the language being spoken. Even when I missed something I could easily catch up, and enjoy the charming humour peppered throughout.

Even in its seemingly innocent portrayal of forest animals, this production had several strong messages which really did resonate, whilst still adding to the comedy at the same time. For instance, the Vixen at one point tries to rally the Hens, to rise up against the Cock whom is manipulating them, purely for their eggs. This scene had the audience in hysterics yet still held a powerful statement. The importance of challenging authority and pushing back against patriarchal oppression. The story had real heart, even when shrouded in humour.

I am probably not alone when I say, as a 21 year old, who happens to love theatre, I just didn’t think Opera would be my cup of tea. However, I spoke too soon and judged far too early, I was blown away and would encourage anyone who may be hesitant, to experience the magic for themselves.

I would highly recommend visiting the Spring Operas from WNO, coming to Theatre Royal Plymouth early next year, each production for one night only. An experience not to be missed. I promise you.

In Conversation with: Johnny Mercer MP

By Mitch Gregory

At the end of last month I had the opportunity to interview the MP for Plymouth Moor View and newly-appointed minister, Johnny Mercer. I met Mr. Mercer – whom every other Plymouthian attending the surgery that morning dubbed ‘Johnny’ – after what looked to have been a busy morning. I was greeted in the reception by Johnny Mercer himself, shaking my hand and jovially leading me to his conference room. I could already tell that the usual Tory-stuffiness didn’t apply to this man and come the start of the interview the tables had already turned when Mercer asked me about my degree and about Generation Plymouth’s recent conception.

Getting onto the questions, I asked Mercer a few questions on the state of politics at the moment, and how he felt about it all.

“What is the Conservative Party doing to help young people, and, if you were on the campaign trail, as you may well be soon, how would you convince someone like me to vote Conservative?”

Mercer acknowledges that policies for young people “Have been done badly in the past – in a kind of patronising way” and that this problem still exists in both parties. Throughout his answer he keeps coming back to the idea that the best way to have won his vote before he became an MP was to enact policies that were “going to change my life”. Mercer admitted that he rarely voted before getting into his political career. At this point he refers to a Conservative policy wherein they attempted to win over young voters with Nando vouchers, denouncing such things as examples of this “patronising” approach to young people.

He accepts that housing is a massive issue for young people, anecdotally telling me that he was only able to buy his own home after he became an MP in 2015. He reaffirms his belief that tuition fees are right and that “people should pay for higher education”, although he adds that the way the interest is calculated on student debt is “incorrect” and that he would prefer a more means-tested system. These sorts of policies, Mercer argues, are the sorts of ones he would happily campaign on. He firmly believes that young people “are not stupid and they just want something to vote for.” An example of which is how Labour’s 2017 manifesto pledge to scrap tuition fees has started an “awakening amongst students” who’ve “had a smell of the Jeremy Corbyn stuff and realised it’s a pack of lies, so they’re looking for something else.” He does also add that “they’re not naturally Conservative voters, I’d say, but they’re not stupid” reiterating the need to focus on policies to attract young people.

I followed up the question asking him for examples of policies that the Conservatives are implementing to help young people. Returning to housing he praises the Help To Buy scheme, but believes it could go further. And of course he adds that we need to build more homes and make planning permission easier. He wants a grown-up conversation about housing. A grown-up conversation would be quite the triumph in these times.

Much of politics and the Parliamentary arithmetic nowadays is about Party – we tend to vote Labour or Conservative, rather than for the specific candidate. So do you consider yourself foremost as a Conservative MP, or as the representative for Plymouth Moor View?

“I’m Plymouth’s member of Parliament, right? For me it’s very, very clear in terms of my priorities. And one of the things I was frustrated about when I came into this was how people seemed to say ‘I’m going to do everything for Plymouth’ and then get in and completely change their mind.” The example he uses for this broken trust is, of course, Brexit. He argues that Plymouth voted to Leave and that vote should be respected. He targets other politicians in Plymouth, saying that they will do whatever they can to frustrate the result. He admits he voted Remain, but says that should a second referendum come about, he’d probably vote to Leave. He thinks that if he were to campaign to Remain now he’d be breaking the trust the people of Plymouth Moor View put in him.

Further on what you were saying about being the representative for Plymouth, rather than just adhering to the Party whip, do you believe it was right to expel the group of 21 independent conservative MPs?

“It’s a really, really difficult issue. I don’t want to expel anybody – well, I say that…I do want to expel some people. You know, those who particularly have unpleasant characteristics in the Conservative Party.” He adds that every Party, being mass-membership organisations, need to abide by rules of decency. He returns to the question and reaffirms that he doesn’t want to see any colleagues expelled, however people like Mercer have been “crying out for leadership for the last three years. This country is in a very specific place, a very contested place, a very angry place, and Boris Johnson has a very clear method to lead us through this particularly turbulent time, and to be honest I support him one-hundred percent.” He says the sadness of seeing his colleagues leave the Party must be put after the state of the country.

Do you believe the prorogation of Parliament was the most sensible thing to do? In terms of supporting the country through this, as you say, contested time?

“I think it’s been quite significantly overblown”, he says confidently, “actually it’s four days extra that we would usually be in session because of the Party Conferences.” But he surprises me when he denounces “inflammatory politics” and adds that if it were him making the decision he’d have laid out his reasons for prorogation far clearer. He praises Johnson’s leadership once again.

Do you believe he [Johnson] will get a deal?

“Yes. I do believe he will get a deal.” No ambiguity there then. As soon as I begin to mention the possibility of an extension he shuts down the question and reaffirms that we will be leaving the European Union on October 31st. He says it’s a matter of trust with his constituents.

Moving onto other issues, there are climate strikes going on across the world at the moment. The Conservative Party policy is to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, however UN projections have predicted that by 2050 there will be 200 million climate refugees and a further billion people in vulnerable conditions as a result of climate change. Do you think the Government is doing enough?

“People like me already want to be in a world with net-zero carbon emissions […] we are acutely aware of the effects of climate change and we are living through them.” His tone at this point is very sincere, he’s a man of 38, born into a generation, like ours, who understand the dangers of climate change. Yet he plays it safe, saying that “When a country is trying to realign its economy, there are lots of factors at stake”. He acknowledges that the world as a whole have not taken climate change seriously enough for too long, but “Greenpeace have said that this is the greenest government they have ever seen in the UK.” He wants things to move faster, of course, and he supports the school-children strikes, however he denounces Extinction Rebellion for closing down roads in London and “breaking the law”. A balance is vital for all of these things, according to Johnny.

On the state of the natural world he says he spends “half my life in the sea!” and that fellow Plymouth MP, Luke Pollard’s, work on creating a protected marine reserve in Plymouth is good, adding that he “supports anything great about Plymouth.” He tempers his praise with advice that these things need to “mean something” for the people living in Ernesettle and areas outside of Plymouth Sound. He doesn’t have time for “press releases and bluster”.

I conclude the interview by asking Mercer about his new role as a minister, tasked with setting up a new Office for Veteran’s Affairs, which is his driving force as a former serviceman in the British Army. He hopes it will bring together all areas of government and the third sector to create “world class veterans care to those who served in this country and their families.” I thank him for his time and he responds, in his incredibly enthusiastic, casual manner, “Great! Cheers bud.”

Review: The Rocky Horror Show

By Megan Dibben

A timeless musical returns…and is still as energetic, hilarious and transfixing as its debut! If you are a theatre fanatic or just looking for evening entertainment which is like nothing else you’ve witnessed before, then this is the perfect production for you. Not only does it include huge amounts of audience participation (which makes the show that much more amusing), it also has the most amazing Rock ‘n’ Roll inspired soundtrack- which really gets the audience on their feet, and I mean literally! If you are considering maybe paying a visit, then I would suggest that you book your tickets as soon as possible because this is a performance you will never forget. You would not regret your choice…

Not only does this play include witty jokes and songs within the performance, but it also allows for audience participation – something you wouldn’t normally get in a regular theatre production. Going to watch Rocky Horror for the first time is very, very strange yet wonderfully entrancing at the same time. You see masses upon masses of people dressed up as their favourite characters, and others dancing around, belting out their favourite show tunes- creating the classic Rocky Horror atmosphere before you even take your seat. And throughout the production, there are a number of pauses, put in place to allow the audience to shout out whatever profanity they choose- which only makes the show that much more enjoyable and comical! It is somehow a perfect combination of pantomime and Broadway style theatre, so cleverly intertwined that it becomes its own type of theatre, which is what makes it so unmissable.

If you think this still isn’t enough to inspire you to purchase some tickets immediately, then you wait until you listen to the songs! Not only do they fit so perfectly in with the dialogue it’s hard to decide which is more entertaining, the crowd goes wild for them every time! As soon as ‘Time Warp’ came on, it was like we were transported to a Rock ‘n’ Roll concert. The audience seemed to know the whole dance, and from first hand experience – it’s not easy to learn!

So, whether you want to try something new or return to an old favourite, I’d suggest this show to absolutely anyone – as it appeals to the masses. This show is proof that no matter how uptight you may be, there is always a way to loosen up and let your hair down!

The Ladder (Review)

By Tobias Chalcraft

If you seek a production that will convert procrastination and grief into motivation, look no further than THE LADDER at the Theatre Royal Plymouth.

This intimate, absorbing & emotional show is a real treat for drama fans. The use of excessive volumes, audience interaction and unorthodox casting leaves you engaged and entertained for the duration of this Brechtian-styled performance.

Simple props, including a laptop, water bottle and stationery, provide the cast with a beneficial set of tools to add to their presentation – this includes the use of a water bottle as a spanner in a game which ends up with serious repercussions. Microphones are also scattered around the stage, to allow lines to be delivered with emphasis and boldness, but also to provide a cosy, podcast-like atmosphere at times.

On reflection, the introduction to THE LADDER really sticks out. ‘Emerging’ actor Hugh Hughes, portrayed by Shôn Dale-Jones, starts off by entering the audience to greet us and shake our hands, whilst we are unaware that the show has even started. It is this interaction that ensures we continue to root for him, whether that is by laughter or stunned silence. This is returned by Hughes, who shares his thoughts and feelings like we are imaginary companions.

Initially, the casting of Julian Spooner as the Father is interpreted as comedic, due to the fact he is visibly younger than his on-stage son. However, Spooner’s acting soon captivates hearts and minds as the audience develop empathy for a character that has faced a broken family, illness and a livelihood lost at the hands of urbanisation in the late 1900s.

The layers of an onion are perhaps inferior to the quantity of sub-plots within THE LADDER, and these expertly intertwined stories are tied up by three main events: Hughes’ fascination with Greta Thunberg and the Youth Climate Strikes, his writer’s block and the death of his Father, as a result of him falling off a ladder.

This web of plots provides THE LADDER with its ability to confidently convert unpleasant and relatable behaviours, such as grief and procrastination, into pure motivation to do better in the world. This created a big struggle in reviewing this show, as the simplicity of being absorbed into the storyline maintains a high level across the production – which at one point will allow you to experience joy, sympathy and inspiration in a matter of minutes.

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. Without revealing too much of the plot (the twists, turns and shock factor of the play truly make it what it is), 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 show 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)

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