The Humber Mouth
Hull Literature
Festival 2003

{ Hull Literature Festival 2003 6th - 16th November 2003
 the humber mouth }


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Festival Critic

{ Festival Critic: Steven Hall }

Renegade Soundwave

Writers Day

Ibsen vs. Strindberg

Jeremy Hardy vs the Israeli Army

An Audience with Joan Bakewell

Woza Albert!

Imetexture

Pooh Bear Reading Workshop

Readers Day

Theatre Test Tube

Theatre Test Tube
Versus the Silent Majority

Reviewed by Humber Mouth special guest reviewer - Broten.

This is our second special guest review. Many thanks to Broten for taking time out from his busy album preparation schedule to see the plays and to write up some thoughts. – Steven Hall

About Broten

Broten studied Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University and is currently recording and performing with the alternative rock group ‘FONDA 500’, whose 4th studio album, ‘Spectrumatronicalogical Sounds’ is released 26th January 2004 on Gentle Electric Records.

Broten and the Play Review

Firstly, I am not a critic.
Secondly, I am not a writer.
Thirdly, this is not about me.

This is about Theatre Test Tube Vs. The Silent Majority. 10 plays, 7 writers, 4 actors, 1 director. This is short play territory.

I was kindly asked to write this review by Steven Hall, one of the authors involved in tonight’s performances, as he quite wrongly pointed out that it would be artistically corrupt to review his own plays. I personally think he would have done a wonderful job, and frankly would have been more honest and critical than me. But there you go, you’re stuck aren’t you.

Before I begin, I must offer an apology to most of the writers and the four actors, as I am not going to review all of the plays. There were 10 of them, for goodness’ sakes, and I have neither the time nor the fingers to review them all. Although, special mention should go to Dave Pitt and Philip Wincolmlee-Barnes, who’s poems and play respectively deserve a review all of their own.

The first of the evening, The Duel, by Eugene Ionesco, was a tragicomic tale of two moustaches each one straining to cling to the upper lips of duelling Frenchman (theatre lights test even the strongest of glues and the stiffest of upper lips). Thankfully the actors kept the show together and not the thespian lip cement. A good start, then to a Saturday night. Moustaches, a duel and a crossdresser, ending with a stripshow.

My favourite play of the evening, called ‘Yellow Matter Custard’ by Steven Hall, focussed on two dogs. Randall, the leader and more intellectual of the pair, and Ralph the fat stupid dog, are in prison, presumably the dog-pound.

Like Beckett’s famous tramps they seem to have no memory of how long they have been imprisoned. When Ralph asks how long they have been confined as he does every day, Randall gives the same answer, 6 days. In reality it is longer but as far as they know 6 days is the largest number there is. They are only dogs after all. They pass time and time passes. Also like the tramps, both dogs are dependant on one another. Randall needs Ralph’s subserviency to qualify his superiority and Ralph needs Randall because with or without him he is a fat stupid dog.

Unlike Waiting for Godot, though, Yellow Matter Custard is good fun. The language used by the dogs is beautifully constructed, giving us a human translation of how man’s best friends interact and react with their environment. The actors’ movements (and the use of a leather belt for a tail) reflected the characters’ caninity well without the need for getting on all fours and the floor space was used wisely, accentuating our heroes’ confinement.

‘Stop Singing-The Musical’ by Jake Walker was great fun. A comical tale of an unfortunate but divinely gifted man who cannot speak and can only communicate through the medium of song. The songbound man takes us briefly through his life courtesy of his psychiatrists probing questions. The highlight for me and the rest of the audience came when we realise this curse is not only incurable but contagious, concluding with a nice section of four part harmonies and a little bit of counterpoint for the kids. Lovely.

Apart from the odd moment of thespian loviness, Saturday at Spring Street was a warming, comic and thoughtful production. Especially when you consider the acting troupe had only seen their stage a couple of hours prior to the performance, which I discovered later on in the evening during a chat with the cast which I made up.

A fine evening of entertainment, spoiled only by the fact that you probably weren’t there.

Saturday 15 November
Test Tube Theatre
Hull Truck Theatre


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