Morale Is High (Since We Gave Up Hope)

Alright everyone, can we just take a moment to stand up and cheer? This is my first theatre blog post since moving to Manchester! YAAAAY!

Okay you can sit back down. Just before Christmas I received an email from a theatre company called Powder Keg. They are from Manchester and they had a new show called Morale Is High (Since We Gave Up Hope), which they asked me to come along and review. I punched the air with a grin on my face and said yes. I was also thrilled to learn that my beloved Theatre Deli back in the steel city had helped produce this play.

I really got into seeing plays and theatre productions in Sheffield, and it’s something I definitely wanted to pick back up after I’d settled into Manc life a bit. I took my housemate along not really knowing what to expect but feeling certain that if Moor Deli had a hand in it, it would be good.

We picked up our tickets at HOME (after a very delicious and satisfying meal), then walked round the corner to the International Anthony Burgess Foundation where the show took place.

With the seats arranged in a U shape and two guitars waiting expectantly I felt sure we were in a fun and entertaining evening – in fact, that’s the word my housemate used to describe it afterwards, ‘entertaining’.

The guys from Powder Keg used a mix of song, storytelling, props and sometimes dance to tackle a very relevant issue: after the last few years, and particularly after 2016, what will the future hold? Will we be okay?

I loved how they delivered this play. Tapping into our fears, but also giving us hope (ironic considering the name). It was fast paced without being too fast, and slow without dragging. The music was fantastic too, and had me tapping my feet at every song.

My favourite story from the show was the one about Lindsey, who likes making lists. A sad ending, but a story that didn’t really feel that far off into the future.

I’m very grateful to Powder Keg for inviting me along and feel keen to see some more local shows soon. I’ve said before that one of the reasons I love theatre is because it’s a good way to tackle difficult or uncomfortable topics, and Morale Is High achieved this well.

Cartography by Flickbook Theatre

To go travelling often takes a rather large leap of faith, especially to go on your own. It took me two trips away before I worked up the courage to board a plane with only myself for company, and time and time again I see so many people letting this dream slip away from them because their travel partner isn’t ready, or work is getting busy, or some other convenient excuse.

People often ask me what my biggest piece of advice is to those thinking about travel, and that is ‘Book your flights and buy your visa, as soon as possible. That way there’s no backing out.’

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Cartography is a play by Flickbook Theatre about a girl named Sarah. Her heart has a set number of beats left and she works in a map shop previously belonging to her late father. She dreams of exploring the world, but is afraid to risk putting pressure on her already weak heart. She meets a boy named John and slowly becomes filled with resolve to travel the world with him – starting with Scafell Pike.

Sarah’s story takes us through all the emotions a traveller will feel at some point – excitement at leaving; wonder at what you’ll see; disappointment at plan changes; resignation that it’s just all a silly dream; determination that it will happen; inner peace that you did it; and finally guilt, when you realise that you should be treating your life at home as though it’s a wonderful adventure too, rather than running away.

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Moor Deli details

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Flickbook Theatre

I went to see Cartography at my favourite theatre space in Sheffield – Moor Deli of course. Using light, sound, string, blankets, a toy phone, a projector, two step ladders and some wonderful songs, Flickbook Theatre delicately tell Sarah’s story in one of the best immersive theatre experiences I’ve ever had.

It’s perfect for beginners – I think immersive theatre can sound scary, but Cartography involves the audience without being intimidating whatsoever.

Cartography is ultimately about being the hero in your own life and taking the lead. It had me doubled over in hysterics and at other times I had tears making their merry way down my face.

To find out when their next performance is head to their Facebook page and Twitter profile.

Inside Banksy’s Dismaland

On Wednesday R and I decided to get out of South Yorkshire and go on a mini-adventure. We chose to drive all the way to Weston-super-Mare (over three hours in case you were wondering) and try our luck getting into Dismaland. I was fully prepared for us to be unsuccessful – I’d even researched stuff we could do in Bristol for the day as a Plan B.

We arrived about an hour before the afternoon opening and amazingly got in! I want to share with you what we saw. To me it was a satirical yet meaningful call to action – the exhibitions made you laugh, think and then lament that this Dismaland isn’t that far from reality.

Please note this post contains spoilers. If you’re planning to go to Dismaland and want the experience to be a surprise, wait until afterwards to read on!

As we paid for our tickets the woman in the box office moaned about the weather and stared at us in disgust – I assumed she was just in a bad mood, but as soon as we stepped inside I realised that all the staff were, well, dismal.

Words that came to mind as we took the space in were: obsolete, tired, sinister and (yes you guessed it) dismal.

It was a bit like walking back into your childhood and finding it not looking as good as you remember it. Rose tinted glasses well and truly taken off (and stamped on for good measure).

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So welcoming

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Service with a smile

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Possibly the most confronting remote control boat game you’ll ever see
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The staff did a brilliant job at being miserable

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Loved this advert for pro-aging cream for kids

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It was really nice to see protest art displayed as actual art – an unusual thing. This was right next door to an installation by Damian Hirst.

We spent about two hours in Dismaland and left wet through and shivering from the rain. If you’re thinking about going but are worried you might not get in, my advice is just do it – it was worth the journey, rain and suspense.

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The level of planning that must have gone into this is outstanding – everywhere you look you see more and more attention to the tiniest detail.

Displaying work by around 60 artists from around the globe, Dismaland has drawn visitors from all over the world – I heard a staff member telling someone it has put a fair few million into the local economy.

I’m very happy I got to see Dismaland!

Private View with Plunge Theatre

Moor Deli is fast becoming renowned for a bloody brilliant theatrical experience. Last night I returned to see Private View by Plunge Theatre – a trio of friends: Tuts, Lilly and Izabella.

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This wasn’t just theatre. This was a full on confrontation of the uncomfortable realities that it’s often easier to ignore, or are often so ingrained into our daily lives that we don’t even realise they exist.

Private View is an interrogation of the female body and all the pressures applied to it.

The show is delivered in a truly unique style and will have you inwardly (or outwardly, who knows!) shouting ‘Me too!’ in response to a wide range of female experiences.

It touches upon everything – body image, the media, food guilt, being skinny, being fat, street harassment, sisterhood and even Beyoncé.

I laughed, cried and cried from laughing. To me, the show epitomised the moment when you’re in the bathroom at a bar and you go to look the girl next to you up and down – purely out of habit if anything.

As you go to give the glare of judgement, you stop and think why on earth am I doing this?

Instead, you start a conversation and realise that rather than seeing other women as enemies, it’s far better to see them as sisters.

This show is a signal to not only let go of things that harm and hinder more than help, but an invitation to laugh at how truly ridiculous some of the expectations and standards placed on us by society are.

After the show we were treated to a panel discussion featuring Girl Gang Sheffield.

It is so empowering to meet and listen to like-minded people – this is one of the reasons I love the internet so much; it makes ‘your people’ so much easier to find and connect with.

I felt like high-fiving every stranger I passed in the street after I left – could have been the Plunge Theatre experience, could have been the heat!

During the discussion, Plunge Theatre said they’ll be taking Private View into schools very soon – I think this is fantastic news.

The sooner kids learn that it’s okay to be who they are and make their own decisions, the better. I certainly would have benefitted from having role models like these three when I was younger.

It was an energising, empowering evening that had me laughing out loud in fits of recognition. A huge thank you to Izabella, Tuts and Lilly for inviting me along!

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Interior details at Moor Deli – it’s so nice to have the old Woolworths in use again and I’m really pleased that Theatre Deli are still here! Pop in for a cuppa and chat next time you’re on the moor.

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Above, details of the aftermath. An apple, a chocolate cake and mixing bowls filled with water. I’ll say no more – you’ll have to go see Private View for yourself to find out what they’re used for.

Below, the lovely and inspiring trio that is Plunge Theatre. I think these women are pioneers and also extremely brave! I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.

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To support Plunge Theatre, follow their adventure on Twitter here and Facebook here.

‘The Zoo Story’ at Moor Deli

‘The Zoo Story’ is a one act-play and the first piece of work by American playwright Edward Albee – who brought us ‘Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?’. I’ve seen the film version starring Elizabeth Taylor and absolutely loved it. The story gradually becomes more intense and more sinister, you suspect it could get worse but don’t expect it to – and then it does.

‘The Zoo Story’ has a similar vein of intensity running through it.

Heather Morgan invited me to see her production of ‘The Zoo Story’ at Moor Deli, which is in collaboration with the brilliant Without Walls Theatre Company.


Heather’s most recent work includes ‘Did You Call The Police?’ with Forest Sounds Theatre Company – this was part of the Horror Souk, which I blogged about here. It was one of the best and most confronting pieces of immersive theatre I have ever experienced. So when Heather invited me to ‘The Zoo Story’ I was very excited to see some of her work again.

 

‘The Zoo Story’ is set in Central Park, New York. Two men, one named Peter and the other named Jerry, cross paths by chance and have a conversation. They’re from very different walks of life and by confronting each other, they unearth a few uncomfortable and ugly truths.

Similar to the marriage breakdown in ‘Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf’, the decisions these characters have made, the things they’ve experienced, their regrets and fears, all come to a head in this one act.

I really enjoy theatre that makes you, the audience, feel a tad uncomfortable. If it confronts me and makes me question my own beliefs then it’s a brilliant play. ‘The Zoo Story’ was performed in an intimate set and with just two actors required for the play, was bound to be an intense experience.

There’s some beautiful décor at Moor Deli currently
Peter minding his own business on a bright Sunday in Central Park

 

 

 

 

Jerry arrives fresh from the zoo and the reluctant conversation begins

 

 

The acting really was superb. I found myself feeling eager and hungry for the next twist, the next tale from Jerry’s colourful life. It was very easy to forget that the rest of the audience was there – it felt like I was a fly on the wall watching their exchange.

Although essentially a very simple story, there was so much detail to pick up on. A raised eyebrow that you can see but Peter can’t, a roll of the eyes, a movement of the mouth.

 

 

The exchange reaches a new level of intensity

 

The ending is sad, poignant and unexpected – but after it happened, I realised that I could sort of see it coming. Hilarious in parts, sad in others, this fast-paced and poetic piece of theatre made for an excellent Friday evening.

I can’t recommend coming down to Moor Deli enough really, the work that’s being created here is really special and something to be proud of.

It was an absolute pleasure to watch ‘The Zoo Story’, I really hope that 2015 brings even more creativity to the old Woolies on the Moor!