Fringe Focus:

Written for The Stage

The Faction – Andrew Chevalier, Gary Crankson, Richard Delaney, Gareth Fordred, Alexander Guiney, Mark Leipacher, Lachlan McCall, Jonny McPherson, Derval Mellett, Daniel Millar, Jonathan Plummer, Tom Radford, Kate Sawyer, Isobel Smith, Rachel Valentine Smith.

The Faction

Within the fringe an exciting trend for repertory and ensemble work is appearing. Against tough economic odds, two companies are pioneering sustainable fringe models for genuine ensemble, while others are successfully bringing American ideas of repertory to fringe stages.

First up The Faction are coming to the end of their second repertory season at the New Diorama. An ensemble of 15 performers has presented three plays in rotation. Rehearsing during the day and performing at night it is a gruelling schedule – as you can see from their refreshingly honest blog. But the trust built up within this tight-knit group has enabled them to delve deeper into each piece resulting in an insightful and fresh season that has garnered much critical praise. To read more go here.

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Review: Three Sisters

Written for Time Out

Three Sisters

After the Young Vic’s recent radical interpretation you’d be forgiven in thinking that ‘Three Sisters’ had been ‘updated’ once and for all. But The Faction’s contemporary production is a fresh, if fractured, reading of Anton Chekhov’s classic.

Ranjit Bolt’s sharp adaptation zings with pop culture one liners and places the spotlight on the self-absorbption of the titular trio. Cosmopolitan migrants Olga, Masha and Irina spend hours bemoaning their provincial surroundings and philosophising about life with their cabal of admiring soldiers. Hope soon turns to despondency as their dreams of getting back to Moscow are disappointed and then dashed.

Bolt’s no-nonsense script eschews family dynamic in favour of reinforcing private torments but he avoids sinking things into complete self-pity and retains Chekhov’s lively bitter sweet comedy throughout. The focus on individualism shines a new light on this classic – particularly in dashing soldier Vershinin, whose romantic philosophising and wooing of Masha is hinted at as a selfish façade to pass the time.

It’s an interesting take and an elegantly constructed production, performed by an impressive company. But coupled with costumes that look like they’ve come from Victoria Beckham’s catwalk and a sparse set, Mark Leipacher’s production makes for a very modern – Thatcherite? – ‘Three Sisters’ that begs the question; in this day and age wouldn’t these young women just buy a ticket and go to Moscow?

For more information on this show and The Faction’s rep season at New Diorama go here

Review: The Robbers at The New Diorama

Written for www.fourthwallmagazine.co.uk

Highly emotive and, at points, embarrassingly earnest, Friedrich Schiller’s The Robbers is an impassioned look at the nature of good and evil. With everyone’s favourite Karl Moor temporarily banished by his father, younger brother Franz coldly conspires to make his exile permanent wreaking havoc as he slowly manipulates his way to power.

Whilst we are probably meant to feel for Karl, who on turning to robbery, mopes about leading a band of (not so) merry men from town to town pillaging as they go, it’s much more fun to watch Franz. In fact it’s hard not to like him for all his atrocities, with Schiller creating a blackguard with a strong whiff of that greatest of court manipulators, Shakespeare’s Richard III.  Richard Delaney gives a gleeful performance, clearly relishing each moment of camp villainy and stealing most of the scenes he is in.

Peppered with modern obscenities and some very funny moments of sarcasm, Daniel Millar and Mark Leipacher’s version seeks to update Schiller’s tale of Counts and castles. This works at points, with the language carrying on at a cracking pace but it also serves to underline the ludicrous nature of what is being said. It’s hard not to wince when love interest Amalia cries ‘No woman can live with the rejection of a man!’ As things descend towards the inevitable death ridden conclusion it is impossible to take any of it seriously. Furthermore the modern design makes the eponymous gang seem more like All Saints models than avenging angels.

Leipacher’s production has some nice touches of virile physicality and it is refreshing to see The Faction Theatre Company take on such an epic piece of theatre in a small fringe space. Indeed they are clearly ambitious, taking on the complete works of Friedrich Schiller over the next three years. But whilst this is a worthy endeavour, by limiting themselves to such dated melodrama it’s hard not to feel this could be a waste of a confident company’s talents.

Running until 27th November