Odd Man Out ~ The Hope Theatre

Odd Man Out runs at The Hope Theatre until Saturday 12 August 2017 – book here: Odd Man Out Tickets

Star rating: *****

A double bill of monologues from writers; Dominic Grace and Lesley Ross, performed respectively by Luke Adamson and Gregory Ashton form the structure of Odd Man Out. Both plays are vastly different yet synchronise and almost meet in the middle, surprisingly well.

Rabbitskin (written by Dominic Grace) is a finely constructed piece narrated by the central character, Joe (Luke Adamson) who is a book-obsessed baby of the family and self-confessed lost soul. He focuses on specific moments in his life and how they make him feel – from washing up to sitting on the sofa with his dad and brother with whom there is a three year age gap. He’s the youngest of five brothers, all of whom he is intimidated and bullied by, his mum having passed away when he was young enough to have been left with the vaguest of memories of the lynchpin of the family. The bookish lad has to man up while his dad skins rabbits for their tea. The rabbit inspires reflections in Joe, (who is unable to switch his thoughts off unless he ‘floats’ outside of his body) putting death and the pointlessness of it to the forefront of his young mind. It seems that many life events in one so young have catalysed panic attacks and general poor mental health.

Luke Adamson is a revelation in the role, holding the audience to rapt attention as he portrays the boy who wouldn’t say boo to a goose, let alone a rabbit, then shocks with the ferocity in which he switches Joe’s emotions. Adamson offers a physical, engaging and intense performance which is not to be missed. The set, although basic, provides just enough of a backdrop to demonstrate emptiness, pointlessness and obsession. The lighting design also complements the piece superbly, enhancing the monologue at every turn.

With an ending which is both predictable and unpredictable in equal measure, too – this is a monologue which knows no bounds and it’s been brought to life innovatively and imaginatively.

(Review by Helen McWilliams)

 

Diary of a Welshcake, written by Lesley Ross and performed by Gregory Ashton, is an interactive, emotive and belly laugh inducing piece of theatre. If you were lucky, you were fed too! I thoroughly enjoyed my welshcake, thanks! Ashton instantly has the audience on side and tuned in to his story as he played the role of Ralph, the Welshman who would rather be called Tom and has an affinity with elephants. The piece offers a snapshot into Ralph’s life, the scene is set superbly as we are moved rapidly to a major life event for the non-welsh speaking Welshman.

A broken relationship inspires a decision to move to Hong Kong and teach English, so we are transported from the valleys to the orient where we are introduced to Fanny, Windy and Hymen (three of Ralph’s pupils). The puns are there for the taking and they pepper the script appropriately. The clever flipside being that homosexual welsh elephant, Ralph’s journey takes him to unexpected and often dark places – despite the vibrant characters who provide hilarity along the way.

The piece is intricately written, Lesley Ross has a gift for painting a picture with words and creating characters who spring to life in your imagination, courtesy of the precise narration. Ashton has a clever way of leading you to believe that Ralph is a soul who bounces back easily – therefore it comes as a surprise when he falls. The set offered everything we needed to see because the script itself showed us the real heart of the story, which shone through. Lighting also provided its own ‘scene changes’, reflecting the myriad of moods and atmospheres.

I’ve never had so much fun with a handful of Skittles (as in the sweets…) and I reiterate that I enjoyed that welshcake, theatre and food should go together more often!

(Review by Jen Franklin (Guest Reviewer))

 

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Spotlight on Stars of Odd Man Out ~ Gregory Ashton & Luke Adamson

Odd Man Out runs at The Hope Theatre from 26 July to 12 August 2017, book tickets here: The Hope Theatre Box Office

Odd Man Out is composed of two plays, Rabbitskin written by Dominic Grace and performed by Luke Adamson, and Diary of a Welshcake written by Lesley Ross, performed by Gregory Ashton. Break A Leg caught up with both of the actors to find out what their pieces are all about.

Interview with Gregory Ashton:

Tell me about the piece and your character

Well it’s the story of a man escaping a bad relationship and re-inventing himself in Hong Kong. It’s a love story about cultural identity and finding out who you are, no matter how old you are. I play Ralph, who is a Welshman who sounds more Michael McIntyre than Michael Sheen: he is, I suppose, still trying to discover where he fits in, and he gets in to some pretty ridiculous scrapes along the way.

Was it easy to translate from page to stage?

I think so, but a lot of that has to do with Steve Marmion, the director. He was so careful in his handling of both me and the piece. We had worked together on the award winning Madam Butterfly’s Child so I really wanted to have him back as he puts me in a secure framework to just tell the story truthfully, which ultimately is all you can hope for as an actor

How does the space lend itself to the piece?

Well, I’ve been performing this all over the world for quite a few years now, and the spaces are constantly changing, but there is a unique challenge to performing on three sides… In many ways it is more immersive, which I love, but I also have to be constantly aware of how much I am including all sides, so it is always an adjustment. Then there is the throwing stuff… Will have to think hard about how that will work in the space. What I love about The Hope though, is it is so intimate, which hopefully will help draw the audience into Ralph’s world.

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

Well, firstly Luke Adamson is great, and I have read Rabbitskin so I can’t wait to see what he will bring to the piece.

I think people often shy away from one man shows and I understand that… but these two pieces are storytelling at it’s most engaging, so I’d say “come along, grab a drink and be transported for a couple of hours”. And of course… you may be lucky enough to be fed.

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Interview with Luke Adamson:

Tell me about the piece and your character…

Well Rabbitskin is a beautiful one man show written by Dominic Grace that came out of the new writing programme at The West Yorkshire playhouse a few years ago. It tells the story of Joe who grew up the youngest of five brothers in Leeds. Thanks to his wonderful father he develops a love for stories and literature and he can name his twenty favourite authors off the top of his head! Rabbitskin is Joe telling his story.

What was your initial impression of the script?

I loved it. Absolutely loved it. When I was first asked  to audition for it and read the script I just thought ‘this is so beautiful, I have to get this part’ luckily I did!

Was it easy to translate from page to stage?

The beautiful thing about monologue is that it is storytelling at its purest, it is one actor on a stage talking to an audience. Rabbitskin requires quite a lot of mime alongside the storytelling which is a wonderful challenge for me and really brings the world of the play alive with a beautiful simplicity.

Did you have any ideas about what you wanted to bring to the role?

Mainly I wanted to bring truth and honesty to the role along with an enthusiasm for the stories Joe tells. There’s also a great amount of humour in the script that I was keen to bring out.

How does the space lend itself to the piece?

The intimacy of The Hope is ideal for this piece. Being a single actor in that space talking to the audience, most of whom will be within touching distance, promises to be very special. It will draw the audience right into Joe’s world of magic, dragons, family and rabbits.

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

This is a double bill of beautifully written stories examining how these two characters fit into the world, at some point I’m sure we all wonder this! These wonderfully human stories will connect to something within all of us and ultimately provide an audience with a memorable night at the theatre.

Thanks to Luke and to Gregory, and as an extra special treat, we have the writer of Diary of a Welshcake, Lesley Ross, here’s what Lesley had to say about the piece…

Tell me about the piece and your inspiration for it

Well, there is always an element of the semi-autobiographical to my work, so many of the things that happen to Ralph have happened to me. I have always had an interesting connection to identity and where I fit in, so they are the themes I often come back to and when I first wrote the piece I was living in Hong Kong so culture and cultural identity were foremost in my mind. The weaving of the love story into Ralph’s journey was the hardest part because I wanted it to be truthful, even though it is uniquely odd. Of course nowadays there is much more talk of sexual fluidity so perhaps I was ahead of my time.

Was it easy to put it all down on paper?

Actually, yes, in this case it was. I mean, I spent months thinking about it, structuring it, finding the beats of comedy and pathos, but the actual writing was relatively quick. There was one major change in the show, which happened around the time we brought Steve Marmion on board and that was to reflect an older version of Ralph to accommodate an older actor playing the part. But that made Ralph’s story more interesting because there are many stories of younger people discovering themselves: it’s nice to explore those themes with someone slightly older; someone who may already know themselves in a lot of ways, but is still discovering new depths and opportunities for enlightenment.

Is it translating well from page to stage?

Well I hope so. I think, over the years, different audiences have responded to different things in the piece and that has often been directly connected to where the audience is from. I remember in one country a certain moment was seen as so shocking that there was this huge intake of breath, but that same moment usually gets a big laugh anywhere else. I find all that fascinating. And of course there is the “audience participation” moment, which always goes down well, but we could never have predicted that until we put it in front of an audience. That is why I love live theatre.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

I hope that people go away with a sense of how with just one person and a few props, an entire world can be created! I love the Fringe… it is so important and proves that you can have an amazing night out for a lot less money! There is nothing more exciting than discovering a hidden gem, or a budding actor or director. But more importantly, if one person leaves that theatre and plans to be kinder to the next odd man out that they meet, well I will be satisfied

Finally, any advice for budding writers?

Write what you love to write about… and keep writing! The artist’s life is not a steady line but a mess of peaks and troughs… and I wouldn’t want to change that for a moment… so I just keep writing…

Huge thanks to Lesley – Break A Leg can’t wait to review Odd Man Out at The Hope on Saturday.

 

Spotlight On… Cast and Creatives of The House Of Usher

The House Of Usher

Created by LUKE ADAMSON & DAN BOTTOMLEY Inspired by EDGAR ALLAN POE
The Hope Theatre 207 Upper Street London N1 1RL
18th Oct – 5th Nov 2016 Tuesday – Saturday 7.45pm Tickets £15 & £12 concs
Box Office: 0333 666 3366 http://www.thehopetheatre.com

eloise-1

I chatted to cast, directors and writers of the show:

Answered by performers, Eloise Kay and Richard Lounds

Thank you for talking to Break A Leg. Tell me about the piece and your character(s)

EK: It doesn’t shy away from bold ideas – musically or in terms of action. We’re really going all in. Maddy as a character is a very sweet girl with quite a blinkered view if the world. She’s been trapped in this little bubble all her life, but she won’t be manipulated. She faces up to the challenges in her life and in the end gives up on waiting for her prince to come and takes matters into her own hands.

RL: The piece is a musical reworking of a classic Gothic short story from one of the genre’s masters. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that my character is a classic Gothic trope, the nameless narrator, I suppose his anonymity serves the same purpose here as in the story: to put you right into the action. An audience experiences his doubt, his fears, his struggle in real-time while being led by the hand, as it were, through the weirdness of Usher.

What was your initial impression of the script?

EK: On a self-centred note, I was grateful that it was a bigger role than the source material suggests! Originally, Maddy is only ever glimpsed and doesn’t have any lines or play any instruments (unlike Roderick, who plays and sings in the book), so they’ve really fleshed out my character and given her a whole backstory. It’s also really interesting to see how the family dynamic is explored and there are some twists in this version that aren’t present in Poe’s original, so it’s surprising even for those that know the story well whilst still being faithful to the overall arc and characters.

RL: The script really tries to key into the Gothic genre from the start and uses a good deal of Poe’s beautiful writing.

Was it easy to translate from page to stage?

RL: When dealing with stories where the dead walk, where houses seem to seem to change and move, of course it can present difficulties in translating it to the stage, but once the logistics are sorted, the horror and thrills are universal feelings that come over loud and clear.

Did you have any ideas about what you wanted to bring to the role(s)?

EK: Not really. I came in with quite an open mind. I do think a lot happens under the surface with Madeline, as she knows there is a set way to behave, and that sometimes overrides what she really wants to say. But in terms of how feisty she lets herself get, that’s a balance we’ll need to strike in rehearsals.

RL: I like Poe, and loved the Gothic when I was younger, so I felt I knew that peculiar and almost paradoxical kind of open minded sceptic narrator character, the one which shows disbelief while giving a knowing nudge towards the truth. I wanted to get a little of the classic hammer horror narrator into it, a pinch of Vincent Price, and while, of course I can’t go crazy, I think there’s a shadow of it in there somewhere.

How does the space lend itself to the piece?

EK: It’s quite a small theatre, which is great for this, as the whole feel of the piece is one of claustrophobia and being trapped. It also means the space has to be quite fluid – we can’t separate it out into different ‘rooms’ so we all (uncomfortably) share the same space for most of the play, which is fairly representative of what the characters are feeling.

RL: A studio sized space like the Hope will really lend itself to the claustrophobic feel of the house in which Usher is slowly wasting away. As a performer, the feeling of so many eyes so close will help that feeling in me too.

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

EK: The score is really inventive, and draws on lots of different influences, so it should be fun to hear all the different genres. It’s also obvious from music rehearsals that the chaps are amazing musicians and great story tellers. And of course it’s the perfect Halloween show – a gothic thriller that slowly builds the tension until it reaches a creepy finale.

RL: I would say that if you’re looking for something special for Halloween and the spooky season, this should be top of the list. Come for the thrills, the music and the fun.

Answered by Directors, Phil Croft & Luke Adamson

Tell me about the piece and your vision for it

LA: Well we want to create an atmospheric , exciting, sexy Edgar Allan Poe inspired musical! It was conceived specifically for the Hope’s space and so we plan to use the character of the space itself to full effect.

Did you have initial ideas about casting and what you wanted actors to bring to the piece?

LA: We knew that we wanted the actors to play instruments and sing but other than that it was very open, we had no set ideas about age or look or anything. We were delighted by the amount of talent that walked through the door at the auditions and managed to secure this wonderful cast!

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

PC: I wish for the audience to leave the production having experienced a creative and exciting piece of gothic story telling.

Have rehearsals altered your initial thoughts, at all?

PC: Working with actor musicians always alters the original plans for a piece. Particularly on a show like this where there is a wonderful underscore almost entirely throughout, you have to fit in the practical elements of playing and storing instruments and make sure that they two are incorporated into the story telling.

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

PC: This show has never been done before, it is wholly unique and individual and will be like nothing you have seen before.

Finally, any advice for budding directors?

PC: Take every opportunity you can, and make stuff.

Answered by Writer, Dan Bottomley

Tell me about the piece and your inspiration for it

The idea was all Luke’s and then it continued to very gradually consume me too. Edgar Allan Poe’s writing is so dark and rich, like any great writer he gives you so much while leaving a lot of it down to the dark corners of your imagination to fathom up. In this sense the journey has been constantly surprising, we’ve never drawn a blank on inspiration. Cheers Ed.

Was it easy to put it all down on paper?

Many of the songs wrote themselves, others were more difficult. I knew going in I didn’t want the songs to fall into an easy categorisation as far as genre was concerned. We have taken liberties with the period and that is hopefully enhanced within the music. After an initial struggle it became very liberating.

Is it translating well from page to stage? 

In regards to the writing process I found it difficult to imagine on the page until Luke and I threw ourselves into the acting of it and forced it off the page. It was during these very loud and occasionally boozy sessions we found a lot of the real drama and character of the piece.

How is the space lending itself to the piece?

We knew from day one that it was going to be in ‘the hope’. Fortunately for us we had the space before we had a single note or word down on paper so the piece has been catered for the space. I’m sure when we get in there we’ll find all sorts of issues we never even imagined, but so far every problem we’ve encountered has prompted a much more interesting solution.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

Besides the programme and copy of the soundtrack, I hope they will be unnerved, thrilled and ever so slightly baffled.

Finally, any advice for budding writers?

Write. Throw yourself in at the deep end and be afraid. Collaborate and make a note of any idea you have, however trivial, one day they all might fall into a narrative so exciting you simply have to create something brilliant.

Thanks to everybody for their input in this interview, I wish the show every success.

 

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