Miss Lilly Gets Boned or The Loss of All Elephant Elders is a suitably cheeky title for this mischievous new play by Bekah Brunstetter. It is perhaps a tad dismissive too, with the elephant part of this piece feeling a little underbaked in the midst of Brunstetter’s Richard Curtis-inspired comedy.
Punchy and urban but with a romantic core and melodic twists, Wild Horses by Nimer Rashed shares a lot with The Rolling Stones song of the same name. From Ellie’s opening gasp to her final gentle blowing of a toy windmill, we are whisked along her roller coaster ride of love, loss, betrayal and forgiveness in an evening that alternates between the desperately funny and the desperately sad.
Michael Twaits is a performer who, since graduating from Mountview with an MA in Acting, has created a body of performance art/multi-media work which includes Confessions of a Dancewhore, Icons and The One You Love. He has performed at The Royal Festival Hall, National Film Theatre, Queen Elizabeth Hall and The Lowry as well as vibrant fringe venues The Oval House and Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
A regular on the cabaret circuit Twaits is the flamboyant creator of the legendary Lady M, a foul mouthed but fabulous drag queen who has created quite a following for this witty performer. But as we talk about his piece for Pride 2010 – a reprise of Confessions – it seems that he is determined to leave such defined identities at the side of the stage and take a more exploratory view on people’s personalities. Honour Bayes chats to him about identity, campery, vodka and how, for all one’s glitz and glitter, it’s vital that you have something to say.
By God Electric Hotel is a cool show. As the audience settles into their seats, the atmosphere is more akin to a festival main stage than a theatre auditorium. It helps that we’re outdoors in the shadow of a rusty gas tower skeleton, the clouds insolently floating by us in a twilight sky and a vacancy light flickering anxiously – the Electric Hotel is open for business. It’s all distinctly 1950s American epic but forget the shiny innocence of the ‘70s nostalgia for those years:this is no Happy Days; more a winking acknowledgment to the eerie and disturbing world of David Lynch.
The man in question, Ben, is doing a very sweet elf impression that is at once adorable and tinged with desperation. He’s the average Joe who shouldn’t get the stunner next door but somehow does, the nerdy lad who for some reason you want to impress. Ben, like all of us, hates doing his tax return and this time he’s making it even more difficult by working through not only the paperwork of the last year, but the stories and emotions behind each printed piece. We are being invited to peek into his life via his receipts.
Just as the sour Mary Lennox finds her heart softened by the magic of her secret garden in the children’s book of the same name, so any hardened Londoner will be won over by the beautiful and hidden away Actor’s Church garden in the centre of a bustling metropolitan piazza. Based at St Paul’s Iris Theatre Company wowed last year with a vibrant and impressively polished promenade performance of Romeo & Juliet that showed that director Daniel Winder knew exactly what a special setting he was in. This year’s partner show, The Wind In The Willows, only goes on to further prove his understanding of this best of all gentile spaces.
The PULSE Festival is 10 this year and from the promising programme it’s boasting it seems to only be improving with age. Peppered around the city in a variety of venues from pubs and hotels to studio theatres and town halls, performances in all shapes and forms are popping up in front of an eclectic Ipswich audience. It is an audience that is encouragingly full of not only theatre fans, but families too and even, whisper it with me now, some curious locals.
Festival Director, Steve Freeman wisely opens with shows from local practitioners and companies as well as international artists. Over the years he has successfully steered PULSE as a festival which pays homage to its roots whilst placing itself firmly both on the national and international stage. It is also a place of discovery; strong ties to the excellent Escalator East programme facilitating that scratch performances get to sit alongside more established pieces. Known hits such as Ontroerend Goed’s Internal and Dafydd James and Ben Lewis’ gorgeously surreal My Name Is Sue mingle comfortably with rehearsed readings from playwrights Jack Thorne, Tena Stivicic and local boy Andrew Burton. Meanwhile companies Tin Horse Theatre and Analogue are creating new immersive experiences for us to dip our toes into, Leo Kay and Ross Sutherland are at the forefront of a wave of spoken word performances and 6.0’s poignant and inventive show How Heap And Pebble Took On The World is just one of a cavalcade of whimsical, devised pieces. Oh and there’s work from Transport, Hydrocracker, Pilot Theatre, Tangram Theatre Company, Fanshen, Paines Plough, Nabokov, Young Vic, Theatre Ad Infinitum and You Need Me. So quite a lot then.