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Review of Claire Dowie and Martin Stewart Unboxed

Claire Dowie and Martin StewartEvery August, half the theatrical intelligentsia in London migrate lemming-like north to spend the month running from place to place trying to cram in as much of the Edinburgh Fringe as possible Those of us that remain in the capital can sit and look with a knowing smile playing on our lips as we know the best shows have either tried out in town or are taking part in the alternative which is the Camden Fringe. So far, I’ve seen a few productions and they have been really great. Last night I added to that list with a visit to the Etcetera Theatre to see “Unboxed”.

The show itself was in two parts with the first a performance from Claire Dowie. Taking the stage, Claire gave us two songs, along with some very interesting dancing, from her wonderful novel ‘Creating Chaos’ which, went down as well with my companion, who hadn’t read the book as they did with me, who has. Following the songs, Claire treated us to two monologues. The first ‘Random Subjects’ was an intriguing tale about obsession which starts off nice and gently then builds to a discomfort level that is not relieved when the final denouement occurs and the audience realises exactly what they have witnessed and its relevance to modern life. The second monologue was ‘Arsehammers!, a story which combined a young girl’s relationship with her grandfather, who is slowly losing his faculties, and the realisation that growing up is not really optional. The story itself was both funny and moving, particularly that moment when my mind clicked into place and I realised the meaning of the title. A lovely piece of work.

As Claire left the stage, the audience were treated to the sound of Tom Lehrer’s 1959 ‘Elements Song’ which was the introduction to Martin Stewart’s piece ‘Peter and the Actinoids’. Now I have to say that there is nothing intrinsically amusing about the Periodic Table, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever considered the basic elements – not compounds or sub-atomic particles – since I left school, so I was not expecting this piece to be interesting. After all, elements are dull aren’t they? Not necessarily as it turns out and Martin delivered a really wonderful story of a university scientist who had come along to tell of his work with the elements. Martin delivered a wonderful piece of theatre with a story that kept the audience mesmerised from the start to finish – with flying balls in the middle.

So, two very different performances from Claire and Martin, but they complemented each other beautifully and provide a really great evening’s entertainment. I was lucky enough to see Claire at the Face-to-Face festival earlier in the year so knew I was going to see something really good, and she didn’t disappoint me. My companion and I were discussing both productions for quite a while after the show and he was really looking forward to starting Claire’s book. Martin’s piece appealed to both of us and in the bar afterwards, we were actually discussing the periodic table and the elements within it for a couple of pints. All in all then “Unboxed” is a great show and a very worthwhile element of the Camden Fringe.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

Legendary solo performer Claire Dowie joins forces with theatre-monger Martin Stewart to present a trio of pieces: Claire performs ’Arsehammers!’ and her latest piece ’Random Subject’ alongside songs from her novel ’Creating Chaos’.

Martin performs ’Peter and the Actinoids’: Late one night, top research chemist Peter Rook is confronted with a mysterious box. Where did it come from? And should he leave it well alone or open it and risk ripping his (the?) universe apart?
Twitter: @MartinStewartAC
Web: clairedowie.co.uk

21 August 2015 – 23 August 2015 at 6:00pm
http://www.etceteratheatre.com/

Sunday 16th August 2015

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