Literature Live

Mon 14th – Tue 15th November 2011

reviews

Kate Samuelson

at 18:47 on 17th Nov 2011

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I was more than impressed with Kirsty Morrissey and Tash Dummelow’s production of Literature Live, a selection of eleven short play extracts and one poetry performance, with the majority of the actors and performers being University of Bristol English students. The Little Black Box was the perfect theatre venue: small, intimate and informal, it reflected the ethos of the production itself. The event was smooth-running, with minimal interludes between the extracts, and the variety of plays chosen meant tedium was never felt – each act propelled the audience into a completely new mentality and world, quite different from the last. Each extract was of an exceptionally high standard, as unlike the usual conversation preceding this kind of event of ‘I liked (example) the most’ or ‘I didn’t like (example) as much as (example)’, it was impossible to pick a best and worst extract, as they were all so varied but equally so enjoyable.

Despite the general calibre of the show being remarkably high, there were certain exceptional performances. Antonia Northam, who played Madame Arcati, the slightly demented spiritual medium of Blithe Spirit, was highly impressive, along with Tom Rawlinson’s chilling performance as the unusual, and slightly scary protagonist of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. Both Rose Lucas and Sam Story, who acted in an adaptation of Emile Zola’s Therese Raquin, captivated the audience with their highly emotive acting, Rose Lucas’ onstage tears stunningly drawing viewers further into their tale of mystery and denial, an extract very well chosen by Jessica McKay and Oliver Arnoldi. Vanessa Kisuule’s poetry, as the end of the Act One, was an interesting contrast to the first five acts yet strangely worked as a conclusion to the first half of the show. Her performance of her poem, A Love Letter To Bristol, certainly resonated with the overwhelming majority of Bristol students in the audience.

Overall, as an entirely student-run production, Literature Live was a highly impressive show and a thoroughly enjoyable night. It was clear that everyone involved, whether directors, actors or producers, had put a considerable amount of time and effort into the evening, as it all seemed to run smoothly and effortlessly. The variety of the acts helped keep the event captivating, as each one transported the audience into an entirely different period, mood and story line. From a chavvy world of Romeo and Juliet to a car full of stoners on the way to Las Vegas, Literature Live was an enthralling and entertaining production.

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Rosie Knowles

at 12:08 on 21st Nov 2011

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As a performance including eleven short pieces, all from different texts and adapted by different directors, Literature Live was inevitably going to be an evening of ups and downs – but I was pleasantly surprised by how many ups there were.

In terms of genre, nothing was missing. The night included everything from the brilliantly comic ‘Me Julie’, a semi-modern performance of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, to a chilling re-imagining of Emile Zola’s ‘Therese Raquin’. The strength of the adaptations ranged similarly; ‘A Date with J. Alfred Prufrock’ was an inventive and hilarious take on the T.S. Eliot poem. Despite having the air of a massive Literature student in-joke, it was entertaining as a stand-alone piece. Director Leah Eades succeeded where several others failed: her adaptation appealed to those who didn’t know the original text. ‘The Dumb Waiter’, on the other hand, although a beautifully polished performance with some great actors, just didn’t make sense if you had no knowledge of the Harold Pinter play. In general, the braver the directors were, and the further they moved from the original texts, the better the results.

Likewise, it was the ambitious – and risky – pieces that produced the most outstanding actors. The fairly static extract from ‘Beatrice and Virgil’ could have easily fallen flat, but the energy that Josephine Franks and Ollie Jones-Evans injected into their characters charmed the whole audience and made it the best play of the evening. ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’, too, is a difficult text to do justice: a foot wrong and Edgar Allan Poe’s terrifying narrator would become a comic maniac. However, Tom Rawlinson’s subtle presentation of the character’s twisted logic sent a chill down everyone’s spine. Although there were instances of overacting, most notably in ‘Blithe Spirit’, they were few and far between, and every piece had a least one impressive actor. As amateur performers, the cast certainly outstripped expectations.

One individual that certainly deserves mention, but who I haven’t yet included because she isn’t exactly an actor, is Vanessa Kisuule. Although her recital of her own poems wasn’t exactly in keeping with the rest of the show, I can understand the temptation to include her in the programme: both her poems and her performance of them were outstanding. If she seemed nervous when she introduced herself, it had no impact on the charisma and passion of her routine, and every poem contained just the right mixture of comedy and poignancy to thoroughly engage the audience.

Overall, Literature Live was well-worth seeing. With such a great variety of texts, directors and actors, it was never boring, and was not only a great amateur production, but a great production full stop.

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