Shakespeare in Shoreditch Festival ~ Pelican Daughters/This Is Art

The festival runs until Saturday 30th April 2016.

Shakespeare in Shoreditch Festival has given four writers the chance to write a play which is inspired by Shakespeare . There are four in the festival and you can see two at any one time. I reviewed Pelican Daughters and This Is Art, while the other two that unfortunately I won’t have chance to see are The H-Word and Grey Man.

Pelican Daughters is written by Amy Rosenthal, directed by Kay Michael and it features King Lear as a base. Gaby (Katherine Dow Blyton), Rose (Jenna Augen) and Chloe (Gabriella Margulies) are sisters, their father (Linal Haft) is on the cusp of celebrating a big birthday and Gaby has taken it upon herself, as the eldest, to lead the celebrations with a presentation. Nervous about speaking in public and pleasing her father, she is flanked by her wine-swilling, prematurely widowed and rather more flamboyant sister, Rose. Their sister Chloe is only mentioned in passing to begin with, to set the scene of jealousy as the youngest and as yet unseen sister, is their father Leo’s favourite. The story takes interesting turns with inhibited and unleashed passion very much an undercurrent. Each character is strong and necessary, from Gaby’s mild-mannered husband, Andrew (Jacob Krichefski) to old school friend, Eddie (Michael Adams) who is every inch the alpha-male. Linal Haft’s transparently bullish and canny portrayal of Leo tells a tale in itself and Gabriella Margulies succeeded in transferring my sympathy to her character, Chloe, even if it was short-lived.

I loved the innovative transient set, which meant that we as the audience moved location with the actors. Every individual set staged the scene with good continuity and the ‘interaction’ with the actors involved us in the piece which meant that the script worked on several levels. A dream of a play which I feel could work well if lengthened. It left me with questions and a thirst for more of what we’d just been allowed a window into. Beautifully directed, cleverly written and perfectly cast.

This Is Art took its lead from Othello and this piece was as terrifying and exhilarating as a rollercoaster ride. Written by Charlene James, directed by Hannah Banister, this is set in an art gallery called Desdemona’s. Jo (Oya Taniya Doldur) and Elle (Comfort Fabian) are old friends who used to graffiti with their pink trademark. Jo (who struggles in a Council House that she is under threat of eviction from once her ailing mother passes), is right-hand ‘man’ to Elle, for Elle owns Desdemona’s and is not so short of a bob or two. There is already a dangerous level of envy from Jo, but this is intensified when Elle commissions Cassie (Francesca Bailey) to exhibit at the gallery. Jo had been waiting for her big chance to ‘shine’ as an artist and feels that Elle had promised her this chance. The green eyed monster sets in motion a chain of events which take a terminal course downwards to devastation.

The set is static this time, but the action includes some live ‘art’ which includes similar audience interaction to Pelican Daughters. We are made to feel a part of the story, and it’s a dark story which at times was intense to the point of claustrophobic and that enhanced the story. All three actresses embodied their roles and portrayed emotions without speech, frequently. I felt every nuance of the powerful piece and it worked as a short play because of the profound fierceness contained within the words and movement. Kudos to the director for striking a remarkable balance and Charlene James is a writer to watch out for.

Book tickets for Shakespeare in Shoreditch Festival here:





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