Saturday, June 16, 2012

Make Better Please -Review- Northern Stage

Make Better Please
Northern Stage
15 June 2012

Writer: Fuel, Uninvited Guests
Director: Paul Clark
Reviewer: Michael Hunter
Rating: 4 Stars

I love the news. Turning on the TV or the radio on the hour and flicking through the papers in the newsagents, to find out what has happened to that corrupt politician, my football team, and events all over the globe, is one of favourite ever things. For me 'no news' is 'bad news'.
At the minute the European Football Championships and the run up to the London Olympics (the Olympic torch/flame is currently in Newcastle) is high on the agenda of every publication, be it broad sheet or red top.
The smaller stories are also making big headlines; a Scottish schoolgirl who has created a school dinner blog, had been told to cease publication because the local authority didn't like it, creating waves etc, but was overturned to maybe save their face.

Once the theatre doors were opened, we were lead to the backstage of Studio 2. I didn't know if this would be as normal, with audience in seats and actors performing for us. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the audience would play a massive part in tonight's proceedings.
Laid out before us were four small coffee tables full of the days newspapers, massive pots of tea, biscuits and writing implements.
We were told to look through the papers and find a story that shocked, or held something strong in our hearts; a story that fuelled enough passion to be able to create further discussion.
The assembled audience picked five stories that were all shocking, or thought provoking to merit inclusion to the next stage of the night. We were also told the pick a story that had a little bit of hope included.
Once the tables had been cleared away we all sat in a circle and after a minutes silence to reflect on our thoughts were asked to relay the stories to the other members of the audience.
This is where it became apparent that our stories would figure highly in whatever happened to the the rest of the night, our thoughts and stories would become theatre itself.
The performing artists of Paul Clark, Richard Dufty and Jessica Hoffman leapt into action as each story was finally told. They became the headline, they became Cameron,or Tesco's chief officer. The audience became judge and jury, we had to ask the headline makers why, when and how much!!.
We were put into a scenario of a war torn village in Homs, some of us were the fighters, some of us were the dead. Again a minute silence was put into place to reflect on what was happening. For myself it was quite emotional, thinking about how I could possibly kill another human being, i am sure the dead amongst the crowd felt similar.
Another scenario of the Leveson inquiry had us thinking what really did go on in the minds of the top brass of the Uk's power leaders.
All of the stories that we had picked were transcribed onto the wall of the theatre by the performers, think of the studio wall in 'Have I Got News For you' with current issues sticking out like sore thumbs.
The god or indeed the devil of bad news was paraded in front of us. Some of us were given mugs of milk to throw over him to, maybe to confirm our hatred of the stories that he loved to make popular.
Atmospheric music and sounds from the likes of cymbals being crashed, a piano being plonked and a mad crazy drummer beating out rhythms led us to Hoffman being the narrator to all of the stories involved, creating a crescendo of swirling words and mayhem.
I must admit that some of the scenes were very contemporary, leaving the audience asking questions that might only come to them in the days that pass. The devil wearing a huge newspaper made penis, certainly one of them, although I did guffaw when he started to bash the bass drum with it.
It was then our turn to highlight the hope that can come from the mass media, we again rose to our feet and reeled off stories that we found, or stories of our own little utopia.
The ending lead us to outside the theatre with the performers burning up our little pieces of paper of headlines, with the hope of 'Make Better Please'.
Make Better Please was a joy to be part of, really made me think that there is more to a story than just the simple headlines. The depth of tonight's performance will be put into full force the next time I buy my newspaper or get a thrill when the clock strikes the hour to tune into the radio news headlines.

Runs until 16th June

Tags: Fuel,Jessica Hoffman,Make Better Please,Newcastle,Northern Stage,Paul Clark,Richard Dufty,Uninvited Guests

Michael Hunter

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