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Review: TakeOver Festival, Studio shows, York Theatre Royal
THREE short, sharp shows on three successive nights, each of them lasting little more than an hour. Now that’s what I call theatre, and I want more of it.
Such performances are the norm on the Edinburgh Fringe, by dint of strict rules on cramming in as many shows as possible in a venue each day.
When York had its four-yearly festival until 20 years ago and its old Arts Centre in Micklegate, more of these shows would come to town, and it has been pleasing to see TakeOver show off diverse performers and performances, not least to inspire similar deeds from young York talent.
Chris T-T’s Disobedience on Tuesday found the woolly-bearded, diffident protest singer swapping his red politics for folk guitar and piano settings of Winnie The Pooh author AA Milne’s 1920s poems for children.
How well they worked, whether melancholic or playful, bolstered by three of Chris T-T’s own works whose rhythm and reason doff their cap to Milne. T-T’s quiet yet impassioned defence of Milne was moving too.
Richard Marsh, Oxford graduate and burgeoning writer, has been working on his next play, Dirty Great Love Story, for its imminent Edinburgh debut, but returned to his Skittles hit as a TakeOver one-off at the invitation of York performance poet Henry Raby.
Bespectacled and nerdy looking, Marsh cut a slightly reluctant figure as a performer, and will no doubt benefit from having writer-performer Katie Bonna by his side in Edinburgh.
That said, there was an intensity and speeding commotion to his rendition of Skittles, a story about sticky sweets, love coming unstuck and someone called Richard not exactly dissimilar to the Richard standing before us.
Whimsical, wounded and witty, poetic and reflective, his writing is a rapper’s delight.
Supporting Wall’s production of Philip Ridley’s explosive Tender Napalm drew a full house on Thursday for another story of young love, tripped up by devastating circumstance (rather than the stuff of broken dreams in Marsh’s Skittles).
On a stage with harsh lighting, two chairs and no props, Lara Rossi and Tom Byam Shaw went at each other full pelt in a physically exhausting, emotionally shattering, no-holds-barred elliptical drama, as far from naturalistic as could be.
The play is a theatrical exercise, an experiment, yet true to human nature too, as Ridley seeks to invent a new language of love when such expressions of passion have become anodyne.
Gradually, the sense of a playwright using his audience for provocative research made way for the overpowering impact of both love and events that derail it.
Byam Shaw, by the way, is the hottest young acting talent this reviewer has seen in ages.