Where and when: Etcetera Theatre, 28th at 9pm, 30th and 31st October at 7pm
What it’s all about… Presented by Blue Glass Theatre, This Is It is non-gendered and non-aged, meaning that this play will be able to have many and varied lives. Focusing on identity and where we hinge our identity in a world shifting under our feet, change is all around us.
This Is It is a dark comedy set at the end of the world. Three have survived this far…
You’ll like it if… you like Hot Fuzz, Black Summer, Noises Off!
You should see it because… it’s dark and funny and talks about how we communicate with each other. This Is It asks you to look at identity and how we view ourselves and what would happen if the world turned upside down. Annnddd it’s funny!
Anything else we should know…: It’s 60 minutes of sharp comedy and some scary bits too!
If you look up Hilda Doolittle on Wikipedia, in the very first sentence you’ll learn that she was “associated with the early 20th century avant-garde Imagist group of poets, including Ezra Pound and Richard Aldington”. But Doolittle – or H.D. – was a poet and novelist in her own right, so why is it that most of us know her now more by the men she was linked to than by her own name, story or work?
This is a wrong that Beatrice Vincent sets out to correct in her new monologue, Before I Am Lost. The play introduces us to Hilda at her most vulnerable, trapped in both literal and metaphorical confinement as she prepares for the imminent birth of her daughter. Frightened and alone, but also angry and defiant, and with nothing else to occupy her, she opens up to her unborn child about their current circumstances and how they got here: her past and present relationships with both men and women, the devastating impact of World War I on what had until then been a loving marriage, and the subsequent affair that led to her pregnancy and abandonment. Slowly a picture emerges, of a passionate, intelligent woman at a pivotal moment – the moment she realises not just to what extent her life so far has been designed and directed by men, but also that it doesn’t necessarily have to continue that way, either for her or her daughter.
Beatrice Vincent gives a beautiful performance, walking a tightrope of emotion with captivating precision throughout the hour-long play. One moment she’s playful, the next bitterly sarcastic; she claims not to want her child and yet addresses her bump with obvious affection; after one furious outburst as she recalls her husband’s affair, she regains her composure with an apologetic, “Sorry, that was embarrassing”. The result is a portrayal that feels very authentic – despite her obvious respect for Doolittle as both a woman and a poet, Vincent avoids the temptation to paint her as wholly admirable, and in doing so makes her much more sympathetic and relatable than any gushing tribute could have done.
Directed by Ross McGregor, the production captures the intimacy of the scene between mother and unborn child, bringing in secondary characters only as voiceovers and thus ensuring that closeness is never interrupted. Just as Doolittle appears so often as little more than a footnote in the stories of others, here the tables are turned to show us these well-known literary figures through her eyes, and it’s a view that’s affectionate but not always flattering. Meanwhile her own writing career is generally more alluded to than openly discussed, through the script’s poetic use of language and literary quotes (of which I’m sure there are many more than I managed to pick up in a single sitting) and references to the classical heroines who featured so prominently in her writing.
You won’t learn everything about Hilda Doolittle’s life from watching Before I Am Lost – we don’t even find out if her fearful prediction that she’ll die in childbirth is accurate. But the play is an excellent first step towards (re)introducing the world to a writer and a woman who deserves to be known as more than a lover, or wife, or friend, of That Famous Man. Hilda Doolittle had her own story to tell, and if this brief snapshot is anything to go by, it’s one that’s well worth hearing.
When you arrive for a show and get handed a mini water pistol, you know you’re in for an interesting evening. And it turns out that the opportunity to gleefully drench some actors is actually one of the least eccentric things about the Lampoons’ Attack of the Giant Leeches, a comedy horror for the Halloween season, which is very funny, extremely silly and above all quite, quite bonkers.
It’s the 1950s, and something bad is lurking in the Florida Everglades. When a local man claims to have seen a monster in the water, nobody believes him… but then people start disappearing, and game warden Steve Benton vows to track down the culprit. The show is a madcap homage to the 1959 “creature feature” movie of the same name, complete with low-budget props, rampant sexism and some very questionable accents.
The Lampoons describe their style as “engaging, eccentric, and visually banterous”. I’m not even sure if banterous is a real word, but it feels appropriate nonetheless. The actors are clearly having just as much fun as the audience, bickering cheerfully amongst themselves and occasionally collapsing with a fit of the giggles. The show also enjoys sending up the style it’s imitating, with scenes of clichéd melodrama, cheesy commercials for household products, out of the blue musical numbers, and – perhaps most memorable – the moment the solitary woman breaks character to launch a furious and long overdue tirade against her patronising male co-stars.
Each of the actors (Christina Baston, Adam Elliott, Josh Harvey, Oliver Malam and Sab Muthusamy) takes on a number of stereotyped roles, among them the country yokel, the henpecked husband, the seductive blonde and – of course – the hero who saves the day, albeit with a lot of help from his considerably more intelligent girlfriend, and an unnecessary amount of time gazing dramatically into the distance. It takes skill and a well-oiled team effort to produce something that seems so completely chaotic, but this cast certainly knows how to deliver – and how to get maximum laughs while they do it.
A word of caution: this is not a show you just sit and watch – and don’t think just because you avoided the front row that will get you off the hook (I realised this when, in my ‘safe’ second row seat, I suddenly found myself being handed a stick of dynamite made out of a Pringles can, by an expectant-looking man in a rubber dinghy). The cast throw everything into their performance, but they also feed off the audience’s reactions, and without that participation – and in some cases, severe discomfort – the show would probably fall a bit flat, so be prepared to get involved.
Don’t expect serious drama or highbrow acting from Attack of the Giant Leeches (although who would, with a title like that?), but what this show does offer is full-on entertainment with a side helping of complete mayhem. It might not give you nightmares, but it will definitely give you a surreal and hilarious night out… and who can say no to that?
Can’t see the map on iPhone? Try turning your phone to landscape and that should sort it. I don’t know why but I’m working on it… 😉