Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Review - The Life and Loves of a Nobody - Town Hall Theatre

The Life and Loves of a Nobody 
Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre
June 4th 2015

Guest Reviewer Wayne Cook, is a professional photographer and member Hartlepool Writers' Group. He has recently been guest blogger for the Town Hall Theatre in Hartlepool. He gives his thoughts on theatre going and reviews the latest show at the Town Hall. 

Some thoughts on the theatre...
William Shakespeare once sent an email, to a friend, that read
“One hath found out, Bob, that Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre are showing Swan lake tonight, if one doth fancy going”
OK, he probably didn't, but he should have.
However, the importance of the theatre, as an entertainment venue, is still as valid today, as it was all those centuries ago.
It's not all opera, ballet and Shakespearean tragedies, although all of those, to lovers of that style of theatre, have their part to play, but a collection of drama, comedy, romance and real life stories, portrayed by actors both famous and not so.
Technology is making the world a far smaller place as we are now able to talk to family across the other side of the world at the flick of a button, but that is just serving to make us all insular beings, tucked up nice and snug in our warm homes.
The traditional community hubs of public houses, libraries, cinemas and theatres are closing fast through lack of use and finances, and if we don't want that to happen then we need to utilise them much more. 
I am as guilty as the next person for sitting in a darkened room, the only light, that of the computer or phone screen flickering, chatting to people I have never met, never liked or never see.
To be fair, who doesn't want to look at the cute photos of constipated cats or the burnt photographic offerings, to the food gods of sausage and mash, that we are served daily by our online acquaintances, but there comes a time for us to say “NO MORE”
Time has come to get out of that habit, to actually go out and meet REAL people in an actual place and where better than a theatre.
Let me assure you, I am not an employee of Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre, or of any other theatre for that matter, and until a year or so ago, I wouldn't have even considered myself a theatre goer. It was all a bit highbrow, pretentious stuff as far as I was concerned then.
Now, though, I have seen the light, I have been touched, not literally obviously, by a love of the theatre. A place where I can watch a story unfold, not on a 42 inch TV screen, but in person, in an intimate setting and FEEL part of the drama. Where you are drawn in to the characters flaws and issues, issues that effect not just the script, but the same type we all face in our everyday lives and something we can associate with. Debt, drugs, love and death are all portrayed in a variety of styles.
Watching the dramatic, final few hours of Marilyn Monroe's death or seeing a group of comedians dealing irreverently with the daily chores of life are just some of the things that I've watched recently at the theatre in Hartlepool. I have felt their sadness and pain, I have laughed out loud until my sides hurt and I've spit cold beverages over my nearest and dearest
I am a football fan, I regularly pay to go and watch my team “play” football, this costs me around £25 per game and I can come home feeling elated or deflated after a game, but the theatre offers far better value for money for the same a. Tickets range from just £3 or £4 pounds up to a maximum of £12 to £15, usually somewhere in between, and offer not just the show itself, but a social environment to meet your friends, hit the bar, have a drink and TALK to them, using actual words.
So come on, give it a go, what have you go to lose, except a couple of quid and a few hours ?
As Marilyn Monroe's, ex husband and playwright, Arthur Miller, once said “Grab you coat Maz, we’re off to the Town Hall Theatre to watch a show”
OK, he probably didn’t but he should have.

The Life and Loves of a Nobody Review
Rachel was the product of a broken home, she lived on the 18th floor of a high rise block of flats and dreamed of nothing more growing up than to be famous.
She watched the street lights reflect into the canal and wished for the stars, but life didn't turn out quite as she planned.
The story is told as a back story by two presenters of a new reality TV show that has been looking for a star, and Rachel is about to be THAT star
“The Life and Loves of a Nobody” take a sideways swipe at the current trend of TV shows that make people famous for having no discernible talent, and tries to highlight that even those of us living “ordinary” lives are actually doing as well as anyone else. The show begins with the presenters thanking us for braving the protesters outside, giving the impression that the show will have a debatable theme.
We watch as Rachel grows up, and has her first romantic encounter as a fourteen year old, who is given a book of dead butterflies by a love struck teenage boy. Her awkwardness resonates with the audience who remember those angst ridden teenage years. The book of butterflies is demonstrated to the audiences as the two actors drag dozens of paper butterflies, tied to string, across a series of strung out lines across the stage, the butterflies dangling freely around the two in the middle of the stage. This was a bit drawn out, especially as we had to watch them do it to a backing track, but despite this, you could not help but be drawn in
As she grows older, we hear how her relationship with her mother begins to slowly worsen, not in a bad way, but the way in which a teenager thinks the whole world is against them, and parents are the first to be blamed. She meets an older man when she is18, and runs away with him to join a visiting circus, but her dreams of stardom are short-lived as she spends a miserable 6 months flipping burgers outside the big top in a grease filled trailer. 
The stage is set with a variety of props and wires, and during the show, you felt that the play would, in fact, turn into a series of illusions and magic tricks, and sheets of paper became houses hung from frames and windows cut with blades, as the actors were silhouetted from behind.
The audience is involved in the show, in that we are presented as the audience of the TV show and that Rachel's life will turn on our decision at the end of the evening. 
We see Rachel become a nurse, marry and suffer the pain of miscarriages, but never losing that flame of wanting something more for herself. Her moment coming when she sees a small advert in the newspaper for the TV show and following the auditions, she is chosen as THE ONE.
The visual elements are great, the highs and lows of Rachel's life are played out with emotion, and at the end, when the shows premise is unveiled, you find yourself in a social experiment of having to decide where Rachel's new life heads.
The production team of Third Angel should be extremely proud of this show. I have to say, this is the most enjoyable show I have seen to date.

This review first appeared on the Town Hall Theatre Facebook page.

Wayne Cook

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