by Steven Berkoff
METAMORPHOSIS by Steven Berkoff
A Stage adaptation of Franz Kafka's renowned novella
Waking to find himself transformed into a dung beetle one morning, Gregor must now grossly consider his options. "Metamorphosis" casts its beady eyes over the norms of society, illustrating the alienation of one painfully normal individual with deft surrealism.
One of the most resonantly strange stories ever brought to stage, this highly acclaimed adaptation by Steven Berkoff plunges into the extremity of Kafka's dark humour, and reveals the tremulous human heart.
Theatrical Niche toured this monstrosity in Spring 2017, using signature touches of Physical Theatre and grotesque ensemble Puppetry.
Alice Sillett headed up this awe-inspiring production, incorporating her Puppetry expertise to create jaw-dropping visuals. "Metamorphosis" was the eleventh tour for Theatrical Niche, and marked the fourth production directed by Sillett - having garnered outstanding reviews for The Good Person of Szechwan, Lysistrata and Blood Wedding.
SPRING TOUR DATES 2017:
Monday 27th March - Mumford Theatre (Cambridge) 7:30pm
Wednesday 29th March - Durham School (Durham) 2pm
Thursday 30th March - Bethany School (Cranbrook) 6pm
Thursday 20th April - Headgate Theatre (Colchester) 7:30pm
Tuesday 25th April - Old Town Hall (Hemel Hempstead) 8pm
Wednesday 26th April - Guildhall Arts Centre (Grantham) 7:30pm
Friday 28th April - Charlton Park (Canterbury) 7:30pm
Thursday 4th May - Trinity Theatre (Tunbridge Wells) 7:30pm
Friday 5th May - The Place (Bedford) 7:30pm
Sunday 7th May - The Vaults Theatre (London Waterloo) 7:30pm
Monday 8th May - The Vaults Theatre (London Waterloo) 7:30pm
Thursday 11th May - Stantonbury Theatre (Milton Keynes) 7:30pm
Friday 12th May - Northwich Memorial Hall (Northwich, Cheshire) 7:30pm
Thursday 18th May - The Burrell Theatre (Truro, Cornwall) 7:30pm
Friday 19th May - Yvonne Arnaud Theatre (Mill Studio, Guildford) 8pm
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org / 07789932182 for further information
by Christopher Marlowe
A New Adaptation by Venetia Twigg
Movement Direction by Sheri Sadd
Exquisite PUPPETRY, PHYSICAL THEATRE and CIRCUS ARTISTRY throw petrol over the flames of this hellish tale of pride and the divine battle for one circus leader's soul. In a world pulsing with vanity and expectation, what happens when the greatest loved icon runs out of clever ideas? Set under the straining tent poles of the world's most famous circus, Dr. Faustus employs the one tactic not yet undertaken - black magic.
Acclaimed Company Director Venetia Twigg directed this visceral and physical production, whilst the company's devilish puppets wandered the stage. Following on from the successes of previous tours; Tartuffe, Lysistrata, and Lorca’s Blood Wedding, Theatrical Niche continued to challenge themselves and their audience with each new tour, using specialist and surprising world theatre techniques. This marked the tenth tour for Theatrical Niche Ltd having toured regionally and to great success and acclaim since 2012, (five times in conjunction with Arts Council England).
AUTUMN TOUR DATES:
Saturday 24th September - Kentwell Hall (Suffolk)7:30pm
Monday 26th September - Whitty Theatre (Berkshire) 7:30pm
Wednesday 28th September - Headgate Theatre (Colchester) 7:30pm
Thursday 6th October - The Place (Bedford) 7:30pm
Friday 7th October - Richard Whiteley Theatre (Giggleswick, Yorks) 7:30pm
Monday 10th October - Mumford Theatre (Cambridge) 7:30pm
Thursday 13th October - Kingswood School (Bath - Private Performance) 7:30pm
Friday 14th October - Trinity Theatre (Tunbridge Wells) 8pm
Monday 17th October - Arts Theatre (London) 7:30pm
Tuesday 18th October - Arts Theatre (London) 7:30pm
Wednesday 19th October - Arts Theatre (London) 7:30pm
Thursday 20th October - Guildhall Arts Centre (Grantham) 7:30pm
Friday 28th October - Milton Rooms (Yorks) 7:30pm
Friday 4th November - Marlowe Studio Theatre (Canterbury) 8pm
Thursday 10th November - Auden Theatre (Holt, Norfolk) 7:30pm
Tuesday 15th November - Forest Arts Centre (Hampshire) 7:30pm
Thursday 17th November - Stantonbury Theatre (Milton Keynes) 7:30pm
Critically acclaimed Puppet Creator and Director Alice Sillett leads the production with her exquisite and masterful puppetry, bringing further fire to this newly-worked production.
Following stellar reviews from her adaptations of Aristophanes' Lysistrata, and Lorca’s Blood Wedding, Venetia Twigg here adapts Brecht’s epic morality play to ask a modern-day audience these enduring questions of society and status quo.
As the production is both multidisciplinary and on several syllabuses, we provided bespoke workshops to accompany the piece, free question and answers sessions and free Puppetry workshops.
Suitable for Ages 12+
SPRING TOUR DATES 2016
Tuesday 8th March - Mumford Theatre (Cambridge) 7:30pm
Wednesday 9th March - Mumford Theatre (Cambridge) 7:30pm
Thursday 17th March - Stamford Arts Centre (Stamford) 7:30pm
Wednesday 23rd March - Louth Playgoers Theatre (Riverhead, Louth) 7:30pm
Thursday 14th April - Lyric Theatre (Carmarthen, Wales) 7:30pm
Friday 15th April - Lantern Theatre (Brighton, Sussex) 7:30pm
Tuesday 19th April - Headgate Theatre (Colchester) 7:30pm
Wednesday 20th April - Headgate Theatre (Colchester) 7:30pm
Friday 29th April - Marlowe Studio Theatre (Canterbury) 8pm
Saturday 30th April - Kentwell Hall (Suffolk) 7:30pm
Tuesday 3rd May - New Wimbledon Studio (London) 7:45pm
Wednesday 4th May - New Wimbledon Studio (London) 7:45pm
Thursday 5th May - New Wimbledon Studio (London) 7:45pm
Friday 6th May - New Wimbledon Studio (London) 2:45pm
Tuesday 10th May - The Highwaymans (Suffolk) 7:30pm
Thursday 12th May - Trinity Theatre (Tunbridge Wells) 8pm
REVIEWS for The Good Person of Szechwan:
"This is a hugely imaginative, clever, witty, energetic, fast moving production that swings from serious to funny in a heartbeat" (Wimbledon SW19) Full Review Here
"A versatile and strong cast with some fantastic puppetry...the sort of ensemble work that makes anyone consider being an actor"(View from the Cheap Seat) Full Review Here
4 stars - "Theatrical Niche have made 'Szechwan' their own. Utilising Puppetry, Object Work, physical theatre and live music, they have honoured the spirit of the original text, while making it accessible to audiences of all ages. All the characters are played by four actors... demonstrating their skills as theatre-makes to the fullest" (Female Arts) Full Review Here
TARTUFFE - England Tour, Autumn 2015
A Hysterical Adaptation of Molière’s Famous Comedy
Adaptation and Direction by Venetia Twigg
Suitable for Ages 12+
TARTUFFE – An impostor so adept at persuasion that he holds the fate of an entire family in his hands. A tale of Hypocrisy at its most extreme here sashays back onto the stage in a fancy new guise. Can Tartuffe seduce Orgon so completely that he will surrender his women and his fortune, or will this dog finally meet his day?
Excerpts of Original French text, Physical Comedy, Commedia Dell’Arte, (it's corresponding nonsense language "Grammelot") and a relevant Modern Reading take centre-stage in this hilarious and bi-lingual update of Moliere’s most famous comedy.
Company Director Venetia Twigg uses brusque Commedia Dell’Arte influences, and a modern English version incorporating excerpts of the original, lyrical French. This follows on from stellar reviews for her adaptation of Lorca’s Blood Wedding and a National tour of her adaptation of Lysistrata by Aristophanes, both in conjunction with Arts Council England.
This was the eighth tour for Theatrical Niche Ltd, and as the production is both bi-lingual and on several syllabuses, and we again provided bespoke workshops to accompany the piece.
SPRING TOUR 2015
LYSISTRATA - England Tour, Spring 2015
A Stunning New Adaptation of Aristophanes’ Famous Comedy Direction and Puppet Direction by Alice Sillett Adaptation by Venetia Twigg Suitable for Ages 14+
Theatrical Niche Ltd in conjunction with Arts Council England toured a newly adapted version of Aristophanes’ famed comedy “Lysistrata” out across the regions of England and London in Spring 2015. We staged an outrageous and visually stunning new production to incorporate physical comedy, puppetry and of course - mask work.
LYSISTRATA is the tale of the one woman brave enough to take men on at their own game: outright war. The battle of the sexes commences as Lysistrata persuades all Greek women to withhold any sexual practices from their menfolk, in return for an end to the never-ending Peloponnesian war.This classic but timeless story vets brute force against sexual persuasion, and although not originally intended as a piece of feminist writing, has been revived several times over the centuries as such, or at least to hold a mirror up to the fecklessness of war. The suggestion to subvert any inept powers that be (whether it be a gender-led issue or not) is certainly one that can never grow old – and was here explored in full raucous technicolour, alongside Aristophanes’ original bawdy intentions.
“Lysistrata” was the first Greek play to have opposing split choruses; and to make the most of this break in genre, director and puppet creator Alice Sillett skilfully crafted full-size (and very cantankerous-looking) male and female puppets. Alongside the modern language and fast-paced wit of the new adaptation, this particular battle of wits and genders tickled audiences from ages 14 and upwards.
Following stellar reviews from her adaptation of Lorca’s Blood Wedding, Venetia Twigg adapted Aristophanes’ classic to stimulate and thrill modern audiences.
SPRING TOUR DATES 2015
Monday 2nd March - Mumford Theatre (Cambridge) 7:30pm
Tuesday 3rd March - Mumford Theatre (Cambridge) 7:30pm
Thursday 5th March - Aldenham School (Hertfordshire) 6:30pm
Thursday 12th March - Lantern Theatre (Brighton, Sussex) 7:30pm
Friday 13th March - Lantern Theatre (Brighton, Sussex) 7:30pm
Tuesday 24th March - Charlton Park (Canterbury, Kent) 7:30pm
Wednesday 25th March - Charlton Park (Canterbury, Kent) 2:30pm & 7:30pm
Friday 3rd April - Kentwell Hall (Sudbury, Suffolk) 7:30pm
Wednesday 15th April - Stamford Arts Centre (Lincolnshire) 7:30pm
Thursday 16th April - New Wimbledon Studio (London) 7:45pm
Friday 17th April - New Wimbledon Studio (London) 7:45pm
Saturday 18th April - New Wimbledon Studio (London) 7:45pm
Thursday 23rd April - Stantonbury Theatre (Milton Keynes) 7:30pm
Friday 24th April - Trinity Theatre (Tunbridge Wells, Kent) 8pm
Wednesday 29th April - Tower Theatre (Folkestone, Kent) 7:30pm
Thursday 30th April - Granary Theatre (Wells-Next-The-Sea, Norfolk) 7:30pm
Friday 1st May - Uppingham School 7:30pm
Feedback & Reviews for the 'Lysistrata' England Tour 2015:
"Dear Venetia and the cast and crew of lysistrata, Thank you so much for a fantastic show! We brought our A level drama students to see you in brighton last week- and they - and us loved it! Really inspired them for their exam- and the world of theatre. To everyone involved- many congratulations! I have been a teacher for more than twenty years and have seen various productions of Lysistrata in that time- yours was definitely the best so far! Well done!" John CLAYTON and the students of St. Paul's Catholic college, Burgess hill
"What a stunning piece of Theatre last night! Beautifully interpreted and crafted, superbly lit and choreographed, an acting range of fine balance, and puppetry to break your heart. So delighted to have ‘discovered’ you! This is a perfect example of how passion plus funding can bring excellence to a wide audience. Congratulations to all the company. Best Wishes, Alethea Mitchell"
"Thank you so much such a vibrant and electrifying performance. You truly brought 5th century Athens, alive, kicking and sparkling to Tunbridge Wells. I loved every minute. Please, please come back with more life enhancing magic! Very best wishes, Carol Williams"
"I would like to thank you ever so much for the extremely interesting workshop you and your colleagues hosted for our students. All of the girls enjoyed it immensely and are very exciting about using their new mask skills back in the drama class. The production was just brilliant. I think it may very well be a topic of conversation for the students for quite some time! Anita and I really enjoyed it and I absolutely loved the inclusion of the puppetry and mask work." - Debbie MacKenzie, Tonbridge Grammar School
"A colleague, myself and delighted group of 6th Form Drama students saw the final performance of your Lysistrata last evening at Uppingham. They (and I) cannot praise it enough. They were also - of course - delighted to interact a little with the cast! It 'brought the classical world to life' (to use a hoary and silly cliché) without sacrificing the elemental, surreal side of Aristophanes. Congratulations and please add us to your mailing list!"- Terry Walsh, Ratcliffe College
FRINGE REVIEW (www.fringereview.co.uk)
I know a lot of people - you probably do too - who "Don't like Greek theatre, it's so old-fashioned and difficult". But the great Tragedies are driven by motives of ambition, hubris, duty and revenge that are easily recognised by modern-day psychologists; while the Comedies show us that human beings' greed and gullibility, their capacity for cheating and cuckoldry, deceitfulness and self-delusion, haven't changed much over two and a half millennia. What makes 'Lysistrata' so extraordinary, though, is that the play takes the usual tropes of Comedy and uses them to make some very serious social and political points.
Aristophanes wrote the play in the twenty-first year of the Peloponnesian War against Sparta. A generation grown up in a state of war; spectacular victories alternating with stunning defeats, the whole economy of both Athens and Sparta on a war footing, and no end in sight. Rather like the perpetual state of war in Orwell's '1984'. Something needs to be done, but a different policy isn't going to be tried by the old men in power - they can only think more of the same. Aristophanes saw a similar situation to poets and writers in the 20th century AD - 'young men dying in old men's wars'. It's unpatriotic, and probably treasonous, to challenge the militaristic city government head-on, so the playwright gives us Lysistrata. She's an Athenian housewife who pines for her own husband, away at the battlefront - "Seven long months since mine left me for Pylos", and for the other women - "The fathers of your children are at war, and do you not feel lonely and abandoned?". And even worse possibilities - "Are they of any use to you dead?". She comes up with the idea of a 'sex-strike', by the women of both Athens and Sparta along with their allies, to force their husbands to negotiate a peace instead of continuing to fight. They must deny their husbands sexual pleasure, and then - "You must ask for peace. They will be like wild animals, ready to take you, and you must convince them that if they sign for peace, they may have you as much as they like".
A revolutionary idea. But like modern feminists, Lysistrata first has to fight against the inertia of her own sex. "Women could save Greece … What if we were the answer?" she cries, to which her neighbour replies sadly - "Then our country's salvation dangles on a very thin thread. … I admire your tenacity, but we're just girls". Finally, though, she wins the women over - all together they work to oppose the State, and this is where the play feels so modern. Most Greek theatre is about the individual, living out his or her Destiny in conflict with Gods or family, but here we have a strike, a collective action designed to achieve a political goal. People taking action on their own account, not as followers of some ruler. That's a modern concept, certainly post-Enlightenment.
But as well as that, it's a feminist action, designed to oppose and bypass the traditional male leadership. Women setting the political agenda - surely that's a Twentieth Century phenomenon. In her meeting to persuade the other women to join her, Lysistrata sounds exactly like a Suffragette leader from the early 1900s.
You can get away with a lot if you make people laugh, and Aristophanes wraps these incendiary ideas in knockabout comedy and broad sexual innuendo. The text has been adapted by Venetia Twigg, the Company Director of Theatrical Niche, and she's done a great job in keeping the pace of the dialogue going while also making the meanings and jokes very clear to a contemporary audience. During Lysistrata's meeting one woman confessed - "I've not even had the whiff of a lover … not even a quick grope for us young widows. I am strong, but young blood runs through me, and this denial feels like a punishment - and not a good kind of punishment!". Shrieks of laughter from the other women, and one commented - "I didn't know you had it in you". "I don’t have it in me!" retorted the young widow, desperately. Very gross, and very funny. Like pantomime, which is the effect that Venetia Twigg and Alice Sillett were aiming for. Lots of sexual banter, oblique references to 'hard', or 'stiff' objects, and little asides and knowing glances from the actors to the audience. It felt like good pantomime, too, in that there were constant gales of laughter, and then all of us would call out "Oooh" at some particularly suggestive phrase. The performance space at the Lantern Theatre is quite small, so the audience felt very involved in the action - sometimes we were addressed directly, as slaves or as Athenian citizens. There were five in the cast, though it felt like many more as they each switched among several roles, and they also came on behind masks, creating a whole different set of characters as The Chorus.
Aristophanes has two Chorus groups in 'Lysistrata'. A group of Old Women have gone to the Athenian Treasury at the Acropolis, to take control of the city's wealth and stop it being used to continue the war, and a group of Old Men arrive to oppose them. The masks were pewter-grey, obviously descended from traditional Greek theatre but with twisted and warped features that suggested a detour via Picasso. Each mask topped a spindly puppet figure made largely out of tattered grey rags and ribbons, giving a kind of scarecrow effect, the puppet's words accentuated by moving one arm and claw-like hand, which the Chorus actor operated with a stick.
With an actor changing his or her voice as Chorus, it was hard to remember that we were looking at just five on stage. This was real ensemble playing, every cast member demonstrating great physicality as they moved, fought and danced through the production. I've mentioned the subtlety of the knowing asides and innuendo earlier, but it made the show a real joy to watch. It would be unfair to single out an actor for special praise, but we must remember that the production's writer Venetia Twigg also played Lysistrata, and that director Alice Sillett also designed the masks and puppets. Twigg's adaption of Aristophanes' text has cut out a lot of the insults and bandying between the Old Men and the Old Women, concentrating more on the younger women and their arguments with The Magistrate. It's interesting that the playwright in 411 BC reminds his audience of the importance of finance - "We have seized the Treasury to stop the war. No money, no war. Simple!". After one naval defeat the Athenians spent lavishly to rebuild their fleet - these days we would talk about 'the military-industrial complex'.
The Magistrate represents the patriarchal Government of the city state - the guys who vote to spend the money to buy the weapons. He just sees the women as troublemakers, but Lysistrata tells him forcefully - "When we meekly asked you whether you have voted for peace, you hushed us, told us to mind our own business, not to speak about matters that don't concern us, that war is man's business. Well, we will no longer be treated like barbarians. War is everyone's business".
This is truly subversive material, but Aristophanes coats it with slapstick comedy involving the Magistrate and his Officer getting tied up and insulted; and then later, with incredibly prominent erections lifting the men's clothing as the sex strike takes hold (as it were … I'm getting into innuendo myself here) and all the men are becoming increasingly desperate for sexual release.
Great credit to Theatrical Niche; they managed to balance the politics with the comedy in a way that kept their audience truly engaged and hugely enthusiastic throughout. A powerful performance - an evening to remember.
Reviewed by Strat Mastoris 13th March
SUDBURY SPY (Sudburyspy.com)
“No wild beast exists like a woman’s kiss.” The Old Male Leader hit the nail on the - ahem - head, when it dawned on him and the other sex-starved males of Ancient Athens that if they wanted relief from an ‘intimacy strike’ imposed on them by their Aphrodite-admiring women-folk, they had better give up something in return, and in the case of the tale of Lysistrata, it was war - and more specifically the Peloponnesian War between the Athenians and the Spartans - that had to end. Ironically Greek mythology would have us believe that Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love and Beauty did in fact lust after Ares, a god of war, and therefore had Aristophanes been in a position to write a sequel to Lysistrata way back in the fifth century BC, then it’s quite possible that this theme of ‘love trumping war…or not’ could have been continued in some depth.
Needless to say, the modern adaptation of Lysistrata which was performed so impeccably on stage at the Overcroft at Kentwell Hall by the Theatrical Niche theatre company last night was timeless in its clever bawdy wit, its comedic tempo and raucous presentation. Complementary Tudor style drinks at the front of house from Judith Phillips and an introduction from Patrick Phillips, together the owners of Kentwell Hall in Long Melford, made for high expectations from the outset for the audience which were not dashed in the slightest as the evening progressed. Patrick described the team as one of the most deserving and imaginative theatrical companies in the country and certainly Theatrical Niche, consisting of just five acting members - most of whom were on stage almost constantly, albeit in a variety of guises as different characters or as puppeteers - have rendered Aristophanes’ humourous classic into modern comedy gold. Regional British accents, smutty visual jokes galore and ample references to “troublesome uprisings” and the “will(y) of the people” made for a hugely entertaining and immensely hilarious theatrical experience and proved without a shadow of a doubt that Ancient Greek humour translates superbly well to the contemporary stage.
Maia Kirkman-Richards and Rachel Salisbury were dazzling in their portrayal of local wives turned in favour of the sex cause and Luke Adamson and Samuel Griffiths coped particularly admirably with their - ahem - ‘sustained physical afflictions’. Venetia Twigg excelled not only in her portrayal of Lysistrata as a political campaigner but also through her passionate monologues and aura of infectious enthusiasm. Aristophanes was the first known playwright to deploy the medium of the Chorus - a large body of people who effectively narrate the plot and contribute as a mass of public opinion to the story, sometimes interacting against the main protagonists to explain complex story development. Huge silver and blue styrofoam moulded puppets controlled in turn by the members of the company were brought in to represent the Chorus and this was certainly an impressive development and unique interpretation of the Greek masterpiece for a small stage and a smaller cast. Director and puppet-designer-in-chief Alice Sillett must be applauded for this imaginative and creative approach.
- See more at: http://sudburyspy.com/what-s-on/theatre/item/316-review-lysistrata-the-overcroft-theatre-kentwell-hall#sthash.gistwwOH.dpuf
PUPPET CENTRE (Puppetcentre.org.uk)
18. April 2015 - Alexander Winfield
Hippocrates said “Life is brief…art endures”, and it’s hard to think of a work of art that better proves that statement than 'Lysistrata'. Written well over 2,000 years ago by Aristophanes, in around 440 BC, it tells the story of the women of Greece who, sick of their husbands running off to endless wars to get killed, stage a sort of sex-strike: no nooky for anyone until peace is achieved. It has been staged and restaged and reinterpreted countless times, and is considered a key text of proto-feminist theatre. Now producer/lead actress Venetia Twigg and director Alice Sillett take their turn at adapting this enduring classic. Large, crumbling stoneworks decorate the stage: a simple set that calls to mind the ruined remnants of the ancient world. Two men enter and immediately set to vicious, desperate battle. The battle breaks up without a clear victor and the lights go up upon a meeting between the women of Greece organised by Lysistrata, a lady with a very cunning plan.
The moment the characters begin speaking we realise that this is very much an adapted version of the original text, with men and women using modern, colloquial English. There are catchphrases, gestures and references that a modern audience will find familiar. This is far from an invalid tactic – Aristophanes himself was a very topical writer, meaning many of his jokes and asides are inevitably lost if translated faithfully. Working in limited space with limited resources and only five performers, each required to perform several characters, this is something of an endurance test. Puppets are used to help bring a bit of visual variety, and to differentiate one character from another when played by the same performer. These are large puppets, with torsos attached to the waist and arms manipulated via rods. Their circular, grey and almost violently expressive faces seem inspired by the wide-mouthed masks of ancient Greek theatre.
The performers really make the show: they give their all, and never tire. One set piece involving a wife teasing the heck out of a husband whose sexual frustration is comically emphasised by a grotesque manifestation of the dreaded trouser tent, is absolutely brilliant. Actors Rachel Salisbury and Luke Adamson deserve a vast amount of credit for making it work as well as it does. A production suited to smaller spaces, 'Lysistrata' is a piece whose performances power through the limits of the material production. A success with the young audience I watch it with, 'Lysistrata' is an excellent illustration that the battle of the sexes has been ongoing for some time, and that even long dead Greeks knew how to have a good laugh at an erection.
- See more at: http://www.puppetcentre.org.uk/animations-online/reviews/lysistrata-theatrical-niche/#sthash.6c0TBMqB.dpuf
KENT MESSENGER (Kentonline.com)
Theatrical Niche's national tour of Lysistrata came to Kent to stage Aristophanes' famous and remarkably rude comedy of the power of female sexuality was adapted (and toned down) by actor/writer Venetia Twigg. Happily she retained many double-entendres so explicit that Benny Hill would have been envious.
Lysistrata organises the women of the warring Greek states to deny sex to their husbands until they agree to end the war. Despite some backsliding amongst the more frustrated women, the plan works, and the war ends. As Aristophanes and every Greek knew, this was not remotely possible - the play is a lively and frothy comic confection, intended to amuse. This production concentrates brilliantly on the comedy, avoiding the pitfalls of some modern versions which have burdened it with simplistic feminist and peacenik messages. Theatrical Niche has developed a reputation for sophisticated use of masks and puppetry. They were used effectively, enabling a small cast to portray a wide range of characters, and assisting dramatic shifts from the interplay of the central individuals to the involvement of crowds, choruses and mythical figures.
Direction by Alice Sillett was energetic and astute. Luke Adamson was assured and pwerful as Cinesias and in his other roles. Samuel Griffiths was superb as the elderly foil to Venetia Twigg's agonised but determined Lysistrata, and Maia Kirkman-Richards and Rachel Salisbury kept us enthralled and amused as her somewhat reluctant friends. The Arts Council supported the production, enabling drama of West End quality to come to Kent.
AUTUMN TOUR 2014
STILL THE BEATING OF MY HEART
A collection of Classic Ghost Stories retold with Physical Theatre and terrifying Story-Telling technique. Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, M.R. James, and more. Adaptations by Alice Knapton and Venetia Twigg
Ghost stories with a difference. In Autumn 2014, Theatrical Niche took the ghouls and ghosties from the foremost storytellers of all time and bringing them out to the regions in style.
M.R. James, Bram Stoker and Edgar Allan Poe amongst others were showcased in full technicolour; using physical theatre, and spine-chilling storytelling technique. The most terrifying of tales are carefully selected and showcased in an artfully choreographed production to both scintillate and terrify.
Alice Knapton lead the production in her work as a London theatre director and maker, and the new adaptations by both Knapton and Twigg revitalise the work for a modern audience whilst maintaining the original horror at the very heart of them.
AUTUMN 2014 TOUR DATES
Saturday 13th September - Granary Theatre (Wells-Next-The-Sea, Norfolk), 7:30pm
Saturday 27th September - Kentwell Hall (Long Melford, Suffolk), 7:30pm
Sunday 5th October - Hen & Chickens Theatre (London), 7pm
Monday 6th October - Hen & Chickens Theatre (London), 7pm
Friday 10th October - Trinity Theatre (Tunbridge Wells, Kent), 8pm
Saturday 18th October - Mumford Theatre (Cambridge, Cambs), 7:30pm
Friday 31st October - Charlton Park Foundation (Canterbury, Kent), 7:30pm
Saturday 1st November - Charlton Park Foundation (Canterbury, Kent), 7:30pm
Saturday 8th November - Odell Village Hall (Bedfordshire), 7:30pm
SPRING TOUR 2014
A NEW ADAPTATION OF LORCA'S FAMOUS TRAGEDY
Loyalty and passion duel to the death in this world-famous triangle of the heart and dagger. A bride-to-be promises herself to a good and loving fiancé, but the sound of horse hooves at her gate tell of a previous love not yet forgotten.
Theatrical Niche breathe fresh fire into Lorca's famed tragedy, "Blood Wedding" this Spring with a stunning new adaptation. A unique blend of Puppetry, Mask Work and Movement illustrate this revered Spanish work, harking back both to the renegade intentions of the playwright, whilst drawing on modern theatre-craft from critically-acclaimed Director, Alice Sillett.
Celebrating the poetry and ardour of Lorca's writing whilst bringing the play into the 21st century, this new work is adapted as a multi-disciplinary piece, and showcases an original musical score and lighting from an Award-Winning designer.
"To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves" - Federico Garcia Lorca
SPRING TOUR DATES 2014
26th March - Charlton Park Foundation, Canterbury (7:30pm)
27th March - Charlton Park Foundation, Canterbury (2pm)
31st March– Mumford Theatre, Cambridge (7:30pm)
1st April - James Allen's School, Dulwich, Greater London (4:30pm)
11th April - Granary Theatre, Wells-Next-The-Sea, Norfolk (7:30pm)
12th April - Granary Theatre, Wells-Next-The-Sea, Norfolk (7:30pm)
24th April - Rugby School, Warwickshire (7:30pm)
25th April - Lancaster Grand, Lancaster (7:30pm)
29th April - King's School, Chester (7:30pm)
1st May - Loughborough School (2pm & 4:15pm)
2nd May - Kentwell Hall, Suffolk (7:30pm)
6th May - Rosemary Branch Theatre, North London (2 + 7:30pm)
7th May - Rosemary Branch Theatre, North London (2 + 7:30pm)
8th May - Caterham School, Surrey (7:30pm)
12th May - Buxton Opera House (7:30pm)
15th May - Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells (8pm)
16th May - Odell Village Hall, Bedfordshire (7:30pm)
The aggravated caballo is represented with clapping, stamping and banging, and although this has been done before, it feels somehow more urgent and dangerous than in other productions...But it is the puppets (designed by Shelly Atton) in Act Three that hold the element of surprise and take the production to the next level. The masks that the cast have been wearing are simple and expressionless, but the puppets are beautifully ethereal (albeit quite frightening), particularly the Moon and Death/Beggarwoman. The cast control them effortlessly (the hushed echo of the Moon’s voice (Attenborough) is also a nice touch) and the overall effect is mesmerising...the production itself is one of the best versions – in English or Spanish – that I have ever seen." - WHAT'S PEEN SEEN 2014
impresario Venetia Twigg's company Theatrical Niche brought her
adaptation of Lorca's brooding, passionate tragedy to Charlton Park at
the start of its pre-London run. The production is supported by the Arts
Council, who in this case deserve praise for helping to bring a
top-quality version of a powerful and intellectually stimulating work to
a local audience. A highly professional cast of 5 covered the dozen
parts expertly, with seamless transitions from role to role. The simple
but effective set assisted the build-up of the emotional intensity the
The story of a betrayed bridegroom; a bride faithless despite herself and despite the immensely powerful social norms and family ties of the society in which she lives; and a lover whose feelings for her have destroyed his marriage and made his life a torment, retains its impact and freshness after 80 years.
Lorca is telling us that we are subject to unavoidable, profound emotional currents deep in our nature which - like the underground streams that have erupted to flood so much of Kent lately - will at times affect our lives crucially, and take us to places we do not wish to go. There are resonances of the Greek idea that humans are to an extent, and at particular times, the puppets of forces unleashed by various Gods.
As a result, the play benefits from a relatively formal, stylistic approach. The production achieves this by the clever and subtle use of masks, which help to differentiate the characters effectively, but more importantly give a feeling that a mother is also, all mothers; a father, all fathers; speaking for the hopes, fears and despair of all.
Further, the shock and awe caused by the use of large - awe-ful - puppets in the final act as the tragedy reaches its inevitable climax, helps drive home the same themes.
Dominic Attenborough is outstanding as the innocent bridegroom, drawn inexorably into a horror story not of his making. Adam Boyle is also powerful and compelling as the tortured lover and ( masked ) as the hapless father of the bride. Micha Colombo, masked as the Mother, and despairing as the wife in a failed marriage, brings out the pathos of both. Alice Knapton's bride wrings our heartstrings as a girl seeking to be happily and conventionally married but driven by emotional forces she cannot control. Venetia Twigg demonstrated her remarkable range and versatility as maid, worried mother-in-law, and nosy neighbour. Direction by Dan Hutton and Alice Sillett was innovative and assured." KENT MESSENGER 2014
"Directors Dan Hutton and Alice Sillett’s decision to establish the setting of Blood Wedding,
a dry and bleak area of Spain during the civil war, with music, dance
and excerpts of Spanish was a good one. These stylistic elements are
smoothly executed by the cast and effectively transport the audience.
The puppets used in the third act are also beguiling and add a pleasing
surreal and supernatural feel to Federico Garcia Lorca’s play...Alice Knapton plays the bride-to-be and in the scenes she shares with
her maid (Venetia Twigg), her futile attempts to seem enthusiastic about
her oncoming wedding are well performed. It transpires that the bride’s
reluctance is in a large part due to an irrepressible love she still
harbours for old flame Leonardo. However, at least some of the time it
seems that it is the societal norm that a woman’s only purpose is to be a
wife and mother that the bride resents... Blood Wedding has many beautiful and enchanting elements." BARGAIN THEATRE 2014
AUTUMN / WINTER TOUR 2013
From the Writer/Director of "The Woyzeck" Theatrical Niche ltd and ACTING LIKE MAD Present
MAC-BETH by Sebastian Rex
This version, stripping the play to five core characters, is set in the minds of an ambitious and sleep-deprived couple. Reality and hallucination merge in a unique piece of theatre. Using some of Shakespeare’s original verse, coupled with Rex’s modern-day style, this production promises to shed new light on The Scottish Play.
Methought I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more!
Mac-Beth do murder sleep”—the innocent sleep
Acting Like Mad largely eschews naturalism, creating weird and wonderful worlds which comment on our society. Mac-Beth will be an energetic and intense production.
Sebastian Rex is a three-time OFFIES-nominated Writer/Director; the Artistic Director of Acting Like Mad and Sebastian Rex Dance Group; and Literary Manager at the Space. Sebastian has written numerous plays, including Spare and The Woyzeck (both at New Diorama Theatre, the latter also a UK tour). He was a Best Director finalist at the OFFIES for Spare; nominated for Best Choreographer for his production of The Woyzeck; and nominated for Most Promising New Playwright for Fulfil Me Fully, Phil at the Space. He is currently published by PlayDeadPress. Mac-Beth will be his third published text.
3rd October – Harlequin Theatre, Surrey (7:30pm)
4th October – Kentwell Hall, Suffolk (7:30pm)
8th October - The Space, London (7:30pm)
9th October – Charlton Park Foundation, Kent (2pm/7:30pm)
10th October – The Space, London (3pm/7:30pm)
16th October – Fisher Theatre, Suffolk (7:30pm)
17th October – Mumford Theatre, Cambridgeshire (7:30pm)
21st October – Buxton Opera House, Derbyshire (7:30pm)
22nd October – Capitol Theatre, West Sussex (7:30pm)
29th October -Baron's Court Theatre, London (7:30pm)
30th October– Baron’s Court Theatre, London (7:30pm)
31st October – Baron’s Court Theatre, London (2:30pm/7:30pm)
1st November – Baron’s Court Theatre, London (7:30pm)
2nd November – Baron’s Court Theatre, London (7:30pm)
3rd November - Baron's Court Theatre, London (7:30pm)
"(Sebastian Rex) never fails to create as interesting and thought-provoking a staging as his script"
(Views from the Gods ****)
“A kaleidoscopic connection of theatrical whimsy and ingenuity”
(The Kent Messenger)
"Very watchable energetic performances"
(The Public Reviews)
“Rex’s considerable skill at blending Shakespearean and modern English is most evident”
SUMMER TOUR 2013
From the TONY, EMMY, Golden Globe and Lifetime Achievement (American Comedy Awards)
Award-Winning Writer of “Barefoot in the Park” and “Sweet Charity” Theatrical Niche ltd Presents
THE LAST OF THE RED HOT LOVERS
By Neil Simon
What happens when you’re the only Loyalist / (fish restaurateur) left in a sexual revolution? It’s the 70s, and Barney Cashman, middle-aged wannabe lothario is ready to defect.
Whisky-supping man-eaters; unstable actresses and staunchly depressed housewives all lock horns with our hero, but where will true lust lie for the beleaguered cod expert? Prepare to laugh yourself back in time and all the way into Barney’s mum’s apartment; the Last of the Red Hot Lovers is coming to you.
“That special verbal razzle-dazzle... (a) dimension of humanity to its humor so that you can love it as well as laugh at it”
The New York Times - On Last of The Red Hot Lovers
ASHCROFT THEATRE (CROYDON) 20TH JUNE 0208 688 9291 @ 7:30PM
TRINITY THEATRE (TUNBRIDGE WELLS) 28TH JUNE 01892 678 678 @ 8PM
CHARLTON PARK FOUNDATION (CANTERBURY) 29TH JUNE 01227 831355 @ 7:30PM
CHARLTON PARK FOUNDATION (CANTERBURY) 30TH JUNE 01227 831355 @ 3PM + 7:30PM
FISHER THEATRE (SUFFOLK) 5TH JULY 01986 897130 @ 7:30PM
MUMFORD THEATRE (CAMBRIDGE) 6TH JULY 01223 352932 @ 7:30PM
CASTLE THEATRE (WELLINGBOROUGH) 11TH JULY 01933 270 007 @ 7:30PM
GRANARY THEATRE (NORFOLK) 12TH JULY 01328 710193 @ 7:30PM
GRANARY THEATRE (NORFOLK) 13TH JULY 01328 710193 @ 7:30PM
★★★★★ - The Good Review
The Last of the Red Hot Lovers sees middle aged husband of 23 years, Barney on the search for satisfaction. His hunt leads him into the arms of experienced lover Elaine, aspiring actress Bobbi, and depressed house wife Jeanette.
Set in the midst of the 60’s sexual revolution which is clearly depicted through a simple yet effective set, it could be said that the play is a construct of its time. This is true, as Barney’s search for meaning leads him straight to the need for sexual gratification and we are amused and entertained at Barney’s attempts to engage with these women.
Graeme Henderson is hilarious as the bumbling Barney, particularly in the opening sequence, where he creeps around the room with a delightful display of physical dexterity. Seemingly we are watching a comedy, but as the play goes on it reaches new depths. Unpeeling like the layers of an onion, with each act and each encounter, it becomes more poignant and surprisingly moving. By the end of it there is no doubt that what is being dealt with is relevant to today.
This play isn’t just about a mid-life crisis in the 60s, it is about anyone who has ever had a crisis at any point in their lives. It isn’t just Barney who is on the search for something more, the women he meets are themselves on the lookout for something. This production displays this both through its playfulness and comic timing, but also through the honesty and conviction with which it is performed. We enjoy getting to know Barney through his trio of escapades and Henderson shines in this role, but it is the women who are really able to light up the room, each displaying the ability to consistently make us laugh and also to question ourselves.
Venetia Twigg as Elaine, projects confidence through her bold and forthright portrayal of the role. Rachel Fletcher-Hudson is vibrant and quirky as the rather loopy Bobbi who bounces around the room. She allows us to relish the ridiculous whilst also engaging with the underlying darker layers of her situation. Alice Knapton gives a sensitive and detailed performance as the twitchy, nervous Jeanette, and it is she who really questions what it is that Barney really wants.
This production is thoroughly enjoyable providing many moments of humour intermixed with moments of heartbreak. Highly recommended.
SPRING TOUR 2013
THEATRICAL NICHE LTD
In a Co-Production with
Adapted from the Büchner by
Woyzeck, an impoverished underdog, only wants to live life peacefully with his girlfriend and child but he will soon discover that society has other plans for him...
Animal Work and Physical Theatre here create a magically dystopian universe. Society’s exploitation of its weaker members is robustly critiqued in this fiery production, with an original score to complement the eclectic artistry on show.
Based on the true story of a man who murdered his wife for her infidelity, Georg Büchner’s unfinished and fragmentary masterpiece is reworked as THE WOYZECK. The original’s many characters are consolidated into four archetypes – The Lover, The Oppressor, The Commoner and The Woyzeck. Acting Like Mad and Theatrical Niche Ltd bring this fantastical re-imagining of Büchner's landmark play "Woyzeck" to regional venues in early 2013, marking its bicentenary year.
THE WOYZECK is an original translation and adaptation by Off West End Award Nominee and Peggy Ramsay Grant Recipient, Sebastian Rex.
“A creative new translation... Rex combines the play's Kafkaesque exploration of class and oppression with a modern articulation of the absurd, and though the production's approach tends towards the comical, it also retains Büchner's poignantly bleak meditations on the nature of the self and of society. **** ” – (Plays To See on “The Woyzeck”)
See Also - http://www.sebastianrex.co.uk/ALM.html
LAKESIDE THEATRE (COLCHESTER) 7TH FEBRUARY 01206 873288 @ 7:30pm
LAKESIDE THEATRE (COLCHESTER) 8TH FEBRUARY 01206 873288 @ 7:30pm
CAPITOL THEATRE (HORSHAM) 28TH FEBRUARY 01403 750220 @ 1:30pm/7:30pm
WEALD SCHOOL (HORSHAM) 4TH MARCH School Workshop
RAWLINS COLLEGE THEATRE (LEICESTERSHIRE) 5TH MARCH 01509 622 800 @ 1pm
KENTWELL HALL (SUFFOLK) 6TH MARCH 01787 310 207 @ 2pm
BUXTON OPERA HOUSE (DERBYSHIRE) 11TH MARCH 0845 127 2190 @ 7:30pm
MUMFORD THEATRE (CAMBRIDGE) 12TH MARCH 01223 352932 @ 7:30pm
MUMFORD THEATRE (CAMBRIDGE) 13TH MARCH 01223 352932 @ 7:30pm
TWYFORD SCHOOL (ACTON) 18TH MARCH School Workshop
ASHCROFT THEATRE (CROYDON) 20TH MARCH 0208 688 9291 @ 2:30pm/7:30pm
CHARLTON PARK FOUNDATION (CANTERBURY) 22ND MARCH 01227 831355 @ 1:30pm/7:30pm
CHARLTON PARK FOUNDATION (CANTERBURY) 23RD MARCH 01227 831355 @ 7:30pm
AYLWARD SCHOOL THEATRE (STANMORE) 26TH MARCH Matinee at 1:30pm
GRANARY THEATRE (NORFOLK) 29TH MARCH 01328 710193 @ 7:30pm
AUTUMN TOUR 2012 - PROOF by David Auburn
TONY Award Winning
PULITZER DRAMA Award Winning
This heart-breaking, paradigm-shifting work by American Playwright David Auburn takes on the themes of Mental Health, Gender bias, and the Incorruptible Bond between Father and Daughter.
When Mathematical genius Robert passes away, he leaves his daughter Catherine struggling with the same mental health demons - but that's not the only fatherly asset she inherits...
As young maths student Hal investigates Robert's last great work, he finds that things are not as straight forward as they appear. Catherine's sister also intervenes, leading the family on a discomforting journey of discovery and nostalgia.
Proof was adapted for screen in 2005, and stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins.
Theatrical Niche brought this incredible opus on the inscrutable equations of mind and heart to regional venues in Autumn 2012.
CHARLTON PARK FOUNDATION (CANTERBURY) 22ND SEPTEMBER 01227 831355
BUXTON OPERA HOUSE (DERBYSHIRE) 24TH SEPTEMBER 0845 127 2190
MUMFORD THEATRE (CAMBRIDGE) 27TH SEPTEMBER 01223 352932
KENTWELL HALL (SUFFOLK) 28TH SEPTEMBER 01787 310 207
ASHCROFT THEATRE (CROYDON) 3RD OCTOBER 0208 688 9291
TRINITY THEATRE (TUNBRIDGE WELLS) 4TH OCTOBER 01892 678 678
GARRICK THEATRE (LICHFIELD) 5TH OCTOBER 01543 412121
CAPITOL THEATRE (HORSHAM) 11TH OCTOBER 01403750220
CHARLTON PARK FOUNDATION (CANTERBURY) 12TH OCTOBER 01227 831355
GRANARY THEATRE (NORFOLK) 19TH OCTOBER 01328 710193
Over the years I’ve seen some excellent plays poorly performed and some
mediocre productions saved by the quality of the acting. It’s rarer to see a
marvellous play given full justice by a superb cast but this staging of Proof was one
of those occasions.
Written by David Auburn, the play examines the themes of mental health and gender
bias and does so brilliantly. Yet although these are serious issues the play is shot
through with comedy and witticisms which the cast of four made the most of.
The action is set in Chicago which could have caused a big problem for the cast -
that of maintaining American accents throughout - but they rose to this challenge
without a hitch, even down to American mannerisms.
The story centres around Robert (Sam Heydon), a maths genius who has just died
after suffering years of mental illhealth after cutting edge work when he was very
young and his daughter Catherine (Alice Knapton) who has inherited her father’s
maths ability and fears she may have also inherited his mental instability.
Venetia Twigg plays her sister Claire who believes Catherine is heading the same way as their father and needs looking after. The cast is completed by Hal (Stanley Eldridge) a student of Robert’s, who’s hoping to find some late work of his mentor’s which will vindicate his years of mental stagnation.
I found the play enthralling and the acting from all was superb. Although maths plays a part in the play it is essentially about people’s reactions to mental illness and to the age old question of male versus female, all handled in a thought-provoking way but with plenty of comedy as well.
Sian Napier - Kent Messenger
THE LONDON AISLE REVIEW
SUMMER 2011 - DECENCY/DISCRETION by Venetia Twigg
by Venetia Twigg
Phoenix Artist Club, SOHO
"a close-knit cast of four...a great script and good direction,
it’s an enjoyable and thought-provoking performance"
"a brilliant play, one not to be missed"
"original, compelling,thought-provoking questions on human nature"
- HONEST THEATRE