RAW Emerging Arts Platform- Review

Hi everyone! My life has been crazy busy recently, full of incredible and positive experiences (a bit of light relief after the stressful year I’ve had!) so I haven’t had much time for blogging.

I have got into the University of Exeter! I will probably make a whole different blog post about my experience of Freshers and such, or perhaps a video. In the meantime, I have found a quiet hour in my busy schedule to write long-overdue theatre reviews!

As part of the induction onto my course, we were encouraged to take the train to local seaside town Teignmouth to see the RAW Emerging Arts Platform- an afternoon of theatre created independently by University of Exeter students or recent graduates.

It was a lovely day, and a lovely place- Teignmouth is your quintessential seaside town with a beautiful beach and picturesque pier (although I would argue that my local pier definitely trumps it!!). I went with some friends, bought some fudge and some chips, then headed to the Teignmouth Pavilion for an afternoon of theatre! We saw four very different pieces, each with their own individual style, message, and flair.

I Wanna Dance With Somebody! Or A Guide to Managing Social Anxiety Using Theoretical Physics

Out of all of the pieces, this was definitely my favourite. Quirky and heartwarming, it touched on two topics I feel that we’ve all related to at some point, but it also offered up the perspective of someone with social anxiety, of what it’s like to live with that isolation constantly.

Before the piece began, we were all handed a piece of paper with the words ‘the last time I danced…’ prompting us to finish the sentence. The answer, for me, was easy: I’d had an argument the night before, so I turned music on and cleaned my room angrily until I’d got all the excess emotion out of me and I was dancing round my room. For others, however, it wasn’t so simple.

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The stage is almost entirely bare with the exception of a few chairs used in some scenes, and some bulbs hanging at different heights over the stage. Over the course of the play, the one line actor took the paper-mache planets scattered at the back of the stage and hung them on these bulbs, illuminating the planets from within and creating beautiful, glowing spheres of colour and light. Each planet was used to represent a member of the protagonists friends or family, drawing inspiration from the planet’s geography and mythology. The piece alternated between the hero, Josh, showing the audience these planets and how they related to him, and reflecting on one moment in time that he kept returning to, exploring all the possibilities in an infinite multiverse- what could’ve happened if he had only danced with the girl. All this action was punctuated by the dry commentary of Bryony, his ‘tech manager’, who can be heard through the overhead speakers in the venue.

There were many witty and touching moments in the piece, including a segment where he showed his difficulties with small talk but his willingness to make friends in spite of this. He went around the audience, asking different people where they were from and making general conversation. I had been sold a front row seat (always a death sentence if you’d rather not actively participate in the action) but he travelled all the way through the audience, speaking to people from all different rows.

Another moment I particularly liked was the moment where he illustrated what might have been if he had danced with the girl- and chose the girl out of the audience. What followed was an awkward, initially uncomfortable, but then endearing experience as he began politely dancing with the girl he had picked. Although it was clear she was self-conscious at first, they began to have a quiet conversation on stage, inaudible to us in the audience. What began as an awkward example of audience participation turned into a moment of human connection, a beautiful sight to behold.

Cope

This was an interesting piece on love, loss and human relationships, incorporating highly naturalistic scenes with moments of almost dance-like, rhythmical physical sequences. My favourite of these was at the beginning, depicting a couple simultaneously at war with each other and trying to rebuild their relationship. It was so violent and passionate, dependant yet resentful, and it reminded me of couples I have known in that heartbreaking situation. In fact, of all the couples, I found their story most compelling- watching the subtle interplay as one of the men attempted to reconcile while the other was unresponsive, and then watching their positions switch; the guilt of the cheater coupled with his excitement at new love. The mother and daughter relationship was also very captivating, as I know what it is like to unintentionally distance yourself from a well-meaning parent.

It was a highly emotional piece (I cried about four times) centring on the death of the central character, and the effect of death on those living.

All in all it could have done with being shorter, and perhaps with more juxtaposition- what with the heavy subject matter, I left the theatre feeling drained and exhausted, as there hadn’t been enough relief. The structure was also a little methodical- the monologues, though emotional and enthralling, were predictably placed and felt jarring and arrhythmic.

In summary, while the acting itself was very truthful and poignant, and the story was rich, the ordering of scenes made for a laborious piece that weighed the audience down.

Jack Cray-The Fittest Guy on the Street

This was a relatively short piece. I was a bit sceptical because of the title-what could this possibly be about? The answer: epilepsy. Clever, right?

Some elements of performance were particularly effective- the conversation the protagonist had with his aunt (semiotically represented by a balloon ‘wearing’ a hat) was funny and poignant. His presentation of the sensation of a fit- using multimedia techniques to give the impression that his brain was a sort of mission control for the rest of his body- was an interesting and individual interpretation. However, I didn’t feel like it affectively conveyed the panic I imagine one would feel when experiencing a fit, and I would personally have used more immersive and sensory techniques like the ones used in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and Touch Blue Touch Yellow.

We Are Ian

This is perhaps the most difficult to describe, as I have never seen a piece like it before. Covering the topics of acid house, culture, and politics, this piece seemed to convey a millennial or Generation Z interpretation of the ‘good old days’ that we missed out on- the sixties, the rise of acid house, free love and the widespread use of whatever drugs you could get your hands on. Many speak of this time with nostalgic remembrance and say we have very little to live for now- the message of this piece seemed (to me at least) to be, “yes, the world might be going to shit, but we can still have fun!”

There was a lot of anti-Thatcher sentiment, and the visual effects were utterly stunning. The audience interaction was also pretty inspired- I received a digestive and a (very sweaty) hug. The three ensemble actors managed to capture the stage with an energy unmatched by any other piece we had seen, and committed to the movement with a blaring intensity.

All of these pieces are definitely worth a watch if they are coming anywhere near you, but in particular I would recommend ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ and ‘We Are Ian’ in order to experience theatre which has the power to really change you.

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