Monday, June 6, 2011

Theatre Brothel - Review- Northern Stage

Theatre Brothel – Northern Stage, Newcastle upon Tyne

Producer: Greyscale Theatre

Reviewer: Michael Hunter

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★★

I love being processed – the magic of getting from A to B and answering questions that will eventually get you to C. This is what I encountered tonight when coming along to review Theatre Brothel by Greyscale. Having to climb stairs, be fed through backstage, to walk out onto an empty stage to finalise the process was theatre itself. The questions, fairly personal ones, were set up to decide which of the six ‘acts’ that you saw. Tantalising casino chips were set up in the six different colours to show which act was which, the answer of the final question determined which was offered. I suppose this is what happens when you go in search of that alluring lady of the night; the questions must be answered to get what you want. I had shaven; I had my favourite scent on…I was ready to be entertained!
The atmosphere amongst the crowd was really exciting – everybody had these chips but was unsure of what was going to happen next. I had different ones from the people sitting next to me, so I must have answered differently, or been asked other questions! This was part of the ride that Greyscale was taking us on.
My chosen acts were ‘Me and Mr C’ and ‘Tonight Sean Campion will Lecture Dance and Box’ – both totally different to one another but both had superb elements of audience involvement (as with a brothel, I suppose). Gary Kitching was our first port of call, his improvised funny show involving elements of mental health, stand-up comedy (with Gary wanting us to partake in cat-calling him with heckles to add to the situation) and psychology. I was involved in the show as he asked for a very personal item from a member of the audience. I am always happy to put my hand up, answer questions and be involved, so I gave him a ring with the story behind it, he very cleverly worked his tale around it, making me blush with some of the things that he said, but good craic from him. Kitching comes from a solid comedy base in the North East as part of The Suggestibles (Newcastle) troupe that perform in sold out venues a couple of times a year. I was pleased to have been allocated this production as comedy and theatre, for me, go together very well. This brilliantly-worked piece, alongside spooky ventriloquist dummy ‘Mr C’, was a fantastic start to a night of unknown.
During the break we all wondered what the other people had been dealt with. I decided that I wanted total surprise so didn’t chat to anybody who wasn’t in ‘my’ venue, but from the look and the motions of them, you could see that they had been as entertained as us.
To some Sean Campion’s setting-up of the stage and dressing up was just part of the night, but this was all very instrumental to his act. His sussing-out of the audience and getting ‘a feel’ for how he should play his deck of cards was all in the planning stage. Sean breezed onto the stage with a travel case full of clothes that he changed into whilst the crowd were still finishing off their interval glass of wine. Once he had finished putting on his boxing shorts, shoes and gloves – complimented with a bowler hat – he started his show. Campion’s premise was the tale of his Great Uncle, Arthur Craven, who he finally met up with recently. A man of many pseudonyms and antics around the world; Campion used, to brilliant effect the very willing audience to tell his manic story. Craven travelled the world taking various jobs to fund his lifestyle: boxer, tango dancer, artist and poet were amongst his trades. Campion came amongst the audience pointing out who should be who and allowing us to be embroiled in the journey. Great visual aids such as photographs on a flipchart and a lesson in origami wowed the audience into believing – or believing not – this story. This was a manic paper hat wearing tall-tale piece of brilliant theatre that would not be out of place in the streets of Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival. Superb.
I was, at first, disappointed after the break to be remaining in the same auditorium for the second act. I would have loved to have seen the make-up of the rest of the theatres in use but, in hindsight, I would have been gutted to have missed these! A fantastic night of top grade entertainment.

Michael Hunter

This review was for 1st June, and was originally posted on The Public Review website

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