In Bethnal Green at the Rich Mix cinema and arts venue, there is a festival going on throughout 2015 that goes by the name of Small Story/Big City and is an opportunity for some of London’s most talented emerging artists a platform to tell their stories of city life – small tales which contribute to the rich tapestry of a global city. Last night I got to see two of the shows in the festival Jellyfish by Alice Malseed and Cathedral by Fye and Foul.
In Jellyfish, writer/performer Alice Malseed delivers a one woman show exploring her life – from living in a small Irish town, where everyone that mattered was very upper middle class – through to the present day. The pace of the performance varies with the various segments, sometimes very slow and at others moving at lightning speed as Alice goes through all of the thoughts and conversations of those around her in the scenario she is exploring. There were some lovely and very familiar touches, particularly in the earliest scenes where she has just graduated and, along with her friends, is desperately trying to hold on to the whole university undergraduate life – friends, parties, sex, the odd spliff etc, while the reality of living in a house share and trying to survive on a minimum wage job sinks in. All in all, this was an interesting piece that generated a good many chuckles of recognition from the audience as Alice took us through various scenarios and scenes of her live and dreams throwing books with excessive force and abusing plastic cups on the way. There seemed to be a lot of anger in Alice’s story and performance that really gripped me and kept me glued to the performance throughout.
Following the interval, it was time for Cathedral. I knew this was going to be different when we told to not only make sure our phones were switched off but also remove any watches with luminous dials. On re-entering the auditorium, we were confronted with a very dark place. The seating area was illuminated by one dim light leading to a lot of ‘pardon me’s’ as the audience returned to their seats. The stage itself also had a single light shining on a woman lying on a pile of sand listening to the taped sounds of the sea. Once the performance started things became very strange. Without going into too many details – this is a performance that needs to be experienced not described – the story unfolded before us with two actresses (Eleanor Fogg and Lisa Savini), the disembodied voices of Dominic Jones and Kate Ryan appearing from various places around the audience and performance space as if from another galaxy and lots of sand. Overall, Cathedral is an odd piece that is quite intense in concept and delivery.
As with all festivals, Small Story/Big City has a large programme offering something for everyone. Of the two performances I saw, I quite enjoyed Jellyfish and identified with various aspects of it. Although a one-person show, it was almost conventional in its delivery and that worked well for me. With its very unique style of delivery – talk about seeing things from the dark side – I’m not as sure about my reactions to Cathedral which, for me, was a little bit too ‘out there’. However, both productions were extremely well put together and certainly delivered an interesting and thought-provoking evening’s entertainment that, if nothing else, made me question my own unconscious ideas of what theatre should be.
Review by Terry Eastham
Written and Performed by Alice Malseed, directed by Sarah Baxter
When I was grouwing up, I was promised the world. Now what? Combining new writing and contemporary performance, this show will rollercoaster you through a ten year period in one girl’s life from Belfast to London. It’s savage.
This show premiered at Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival
by Fye and Foul
There is a story, but we can’t remember the details. It has a figure, but its features escape us. You’re my old lover, but I can’t remember your voice.
Freely inspired by Raymond Carver’s short story, ‘Cathedral’ is an audio-based performance taking place in subtle states of low lighting that exposes the audience to the ambiguity of memory and doubt in recollection.
Conceived and devised by Fye and Foul
Written and directed by: Giulio Blason and Yaron Shyldkrot
With: Eleanor Fogg and Lisa Savini
Voices: Eleanor Fogg and Michael Patrick
Funded by Wellcome Trust with the support of RichMix, Barbican Centre’s OpenLab and The Bike Shed theatre.
Age Guidance: 16+
35 – 47 Bethnal Green Road
London, E1 6LA