The Hamilton Complex Review by Jonathan Evans – Young Critic On The Edge

The Hamilton Complex

Presented by Hetpaleis 

The Birmingham Rep as part of On The Edge 2016 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

“When a woman says ‘I have nothing to wear!’, What she really means is, ‘There’s nothing here for who I’m suppose to be today.”

-Caitlin Moran, How To Be A Woman

Experiencing The Hamilton Complex is like looking at the beginning of womanhood through a prism. The same thing is being shown, but spilt in as many different aspects as possible. We are shown thirteen girls all with different names, they perform a series of different acts with recurring images and colours before us with very loose themes connecting them.

The set is constructed like a dreamscape. A rainbow of toys hangs high above, Greek plans stand to the side and a blown-up painting of a garden serves as the background and two television screens at each side of the stage. It effectively creates an other-worldly setting to tell us that we are in a surreal world.

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The Hamilton Complex. Photo Credit: Hetpaleis

This isn’t really a story, this is a series of performances with recurring images and themes and ideas weaved throughout the whole thing, sowing it into a whole. There are no but’s and therefore that lead to any big character revelations.

The girls performances are by far the best thing about the whole show. These girls are actually between the ages of twelve to fourteen and they deftly execute complex, difficult scenes that any experienced adult would be challenged to pull off. As well as that they have long complex performances, dance moves and numerous, fast costume changes to pull off all while speaking in a foreign language to them.

Though the focus is on thirteen-year-old girls this is not a show for children. There is which artistic imagery here that children (even a few young teenagers) will have a hard time grasping. It takes a more mature mind with the ability to cut though the images and understand the meaning. Behind me was a class of (approximately) thirteen-year-old boys and they were giggling at numerous sections. The show operates on the same level of Susperia, Eraserhead and Utena and that is the level of ‘Pure Art.’ Do not think in terms of geography, exact real world roles or function. This world operates on symbolism and metaphor.

The Hamilton Complex is one of the most all-encompassing portraits of Fe-males that you will see. It takes its girls and shows them through every spectrum. It shows them as unruly, mischievous, feral animals but also protective of one another. They can be led around like animals, the ones that pull the lead, the dominated, but also the dominators. It all depends on what costume they’re put in, or choose to wear.

Jonathan Evans participation in Young Critics On The Edge was made possible through his involvement with Mess Up The Mess, Get the Chance (Wales) 

Young Critics On The Edge  is a collaboration between Barnstorm Theatre Company,NAYD (National Association for Youth Drama) Ireland and Mess Up The Mess, Get the Chance (Wales) in conjunction with the Symposium strand of theASSITEJ Artistic Gathering for 2016.

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Young Critics On The Edge- Panel Discussion – Full Audio

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Young Critics On The Edge Panel Discussion Photo Credit: Alan King 

On Thursday July 7th, twelve Young Critics from all across the UK and Ireland met for the final time as part of Young Critics On The Edge.

During this session the Young Critics presented their findings to an audience of Symposium Delegates at BCU Birmingham. Here they discussed their process over the previous four days. They also provided critical responses to the four performances they attended as part of Young Critics On The Edge.

The session was chaired by Anna Galligan from Barnstorm Theatre Company with technical support by Alan King of the National Association for Youth Drama (Ireland)

You can listen to the Full Edited recording of the session here

Or you can listen to the session in smaller sections here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A big thank you to all the On The Edge Festival staff for all their kindness and goodwill over the five days in Birmingham.

 

Young Critics On The Edge  is a collaboration between Barnstorm Theatre Company,NAYD (National Association for Youth Drama) Ireland and Mess Up The Mess, Get the Chance (Wales) in conjunction with the Symposium strand of theASSITEJ Artistic Gathering for 2016.

 

Boing! – Reviewed by Jonathan Evans, Young Critic On The Edge

Director Sally Cookson
Choreographers Joêl Daniel and Wilkie Branson
Composer Alex Vann
Set & costume designer Katie Sykes
Lighting designer Tim Streader, re-lights Jo Woodcock
Producer and rehearsal director Jude Merrill

Presented by Travelling Light Theatre Company

Reviewed July 5th 2016

Boing !is a show about how children desperately try to deal with the anticipation on the night before Christmas.

It is set entirely in a boy’s bedroom where two brothers, wait for their stockings to be filled. They want to go to sleep so Santa will come, but excitement keeps them awake.

The performers are significantly older than the boys they’re playing, but that is forgivable because no child is capable of performing to that level of skill and rigour..They have the limited space of the bed and a little floor space to manoeuvre in and they so gracefully roll and jump in very inch they have.

The plot is obvious fluff but the set up is one that nearly everyone can connect with and what takes you through it is a colourful, energetic performance of childhood.

Jonathan Evans participation was made possible through his involvement with Mess Up The Mess, Get the Chance (Wales) 

Young Critics On The Edge  is a collaboration between Barnstorm Theatre Company,NAYD (National Association for Youth Drama) Ireland and Mess Up The Mess, Get the Chance (Wales) in conjunction with the Symposium strand of theASSITEJ Artistic Gathering for 2016.

Young Critics On The Edge 2016 – Two Perspectives from Northern Ireland

Niamh Meehan and Tiarnán McCartney were the two Young Critics selected from Northern Ireland to take part in Young Critics On The Edge in Birmingham from July 3rd- 8th.

They were recruited to the project and supported by  Theatre NI , Young at Art and Theatre For Young Audiences Northern Ireland 

Here Niamh reflects on our week together in Birmingham 

Our week in Birmingham was divided into intensive days filled with workshops, performances and sessions with the creative teams behind the performances. The On The Edge Festival was an impressive amalgamation of different people; all of whom had different skills, were searching to develop different things, and were at different stages in their careers. The plethora of people brought together to celebrate, observe and learn from the exhibitions of theatre for young audiences became not only our friends, but mentors and teachers. There was so much to learn from listening to others experiences, and seeing their work. Our daily interactions and observations became an international education. I can’t emphasise enough that the quality of some of the theatre we seen, was nothing short of outstanding. Certain performances were so powerful, they will resonate with me for a long time.

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Niamh Meehan and Tiarnán McCartney Photo Credit: Alan King

My concept of theatre for young audiences has expanded from previously rigid preconceptions, to an understanding of this medium being open, complex and wonderful way to tell stories which serve all ages. In this way the Young Critics programme has been a success as it has been influential on a number of levels; from how I view theatre, to considerations about my future career. I hope to see the Young Critics programme expand as the positive consequences of its investment will benefit reviewers, theatre makers, and theatre goers alike. Reviews provide constructive and positive reinforcement for the artistic decisions creative teams are making, as well as providing shows with a public platform and recognition of their presence. Equally as performances are created to be seen and felt by audiences, the existence of reviews can inspire more people to attend performances.

I feel like everyone has something to say and write – the pivotal point around instigating the writing process lies in gaining confidence and nurturing potential; whether or not someone can avail of the tools and support to provide a reinforcing structure and coherence to someone’s opinions. The Young Critics programme has been the first of its kind I have seen which has focused on developing the critical skills surrounding understanding, and reviewing theatre in a constructive fashion. Being able to communicate, observe, analyse, evaluate and review are not just skills which apply to the writing and reviewing craft; they are the foundational skills which lead to professional, creative and academic progression. The programme has a far-reaching capability to improve people’s existing and untapped potentials, as well as their eligibility for a wide range of future opportunities. Not only this, but it has provided a creative outlet to explore the options we have when delivering our opinions on theatre, and on its social and cultural significance. Lastly, it has not only given myself, but all of the Young Critics the confidence to share our opinions and our love for theatre.

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Niamh Meehan and fellow Young Critic Ellie Woolman. Photo: Alan King

I owe my thanks to all the constituent theatre groups and people who have made the Young Critic programme not only possible, but a success.

Meanwhile  Tiarnán McCartney has this critique of his experiences 

Young Critics: On The Edge A Review

This tale begins upon arrival in Birmingham through the hazy and travel weary perspective of the Northern Irish contingent. A fierce heat reflected off flashy modern architecture foreshadowed what was to be an exciting and highly contrasted week of events, although exposition began quite slowly. It was hours after this initial landing before we saw any real progression in the narrative, however once the characters began to be introduced momentum was quickly built.

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Tiarnán McCartney (L) with fellow Young Critics Connor Gibson and Joe Trickey . Photo Credit: Alan King

A cast of 12 young writers and theatre enthusiasts was a risky decision at best and initial presentation of character was chaotic and lacked any real structure. The sudden barrage of names and nationalities was almost overwhelming at times, though credit to the members of the cast as very soon clear personalities and roles were carved and a very sharp, likeable and witty ensemble began to take shape. A diverse and intelligent bunch; a delightful sequence played out over the backdrop of a quiet Asian restaurant allowed further development of character and chemistry.

A warm prelude gave way to some serious drama as the young critics began their intense work-shopping experiences, guided by the wise Anna and Alan. Serious insight and depth of knowledge was displayed throughout the course of the next few days and emotions were running high as opinions were hotly debated in the sweltering work-shopping chambers. Questions were being asked of the true role of a critic, visceral reactions and at its heart; aesthetic appreciation.

The first show was a delightful, and almost deceiving, introduction to the series of plays that would be observed. A warm and playful piece called ‘Boing!’ that beautifully visualised the struggle for young children on Christmas Eve and how easily plans for sleeping can go astray. The strong fluid choreography and engaging child-like energy left the Young Critics charmed. And so the bar was set high. And a consensus of general dissatisfaction was reached with regard to the later show. However visually colourful and stunning, and with an amiable fellow in the wings providing quirky and rousing accompaniment, some Young Critics were left disappointed at the fact ‘Brush’ did contain much “Brush” at all.

An interesting development to the narrative was the introduction of ‘Marmalade’, at the Repertoire. This set-up allowed relationships and connections to develop on a more personal level and provided ample comic relief. In truth, at times conversation became erratic, dialogue was left lacking any real sense and questions were to be asked of why any of this was included? But this teaches us not to simply ask “Why?” As this is implies there is a definite reason behind it, but rather “What was the thinking behind this?”

Day Four still peering cautiously over The Edge, the Young Critics did to think to expect ‘Het Hamiltoncomplex’: a high-octane and fetishised blast of thirteen year old sexuality from Belgian director Lies Pauwels. As many questions were raised socially and ethically as were eyebrows, though I conclude this is a vital aspect of not just theatre but of any art form. Were the girls too young? Did they know what they were doing? Who was really doing the sexualising? Was it the girls? Was it Pauwels? Was it us?

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Tiarnán McCartney (R) alongside fellow Young Critics Tejal Mandalia and Andy McLoughlin at the Old Rep Bermingham for The Broke ‘N’ Beat Collective Photo: Alan King

All these questions were still milling about the heads of the Young Critics when the time came for the final show which was full of music, innovation and creativity. The Broken Beat Collective left spirits high that evening and Wales got stuffed by Portugal, so discussion was left for the following morning when a debate about culture left tensions running high. It was satisfying to watch how each personality had become gradually more comfortable and confident enough to push each other’s and their opinions.

The climax of this 5 day plot was a presentation slash panel discussion in which the Young Critics gave an impassioned performance and delivered delicate analysis and observations from the week past. This was met with standing ovation. The message I felt was important; that there is no good and there is no bad. No artist sets out to create bad work. A sudden twist revealed to everyone’s shock and horror that Korean theatre company Theatre Haddangse, creators of ‘Brush’ had in fact lost half their equipment in travelling to the UK. “Oh, how harsh we had been!” said the Young Critics “How guilty do we now feel!”

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Our Young Critics look decidedly On The Edge at BCU prior to their presentation. Photo: Alan King

Friday morning’s performance, in my opinion, lacked lustre and passion as the exhausted ensemble said goodbye in the place they had first met. Hugs were hugged, tears were shed and doors were left swinging open for a sequel or two.

Young Critics 2: In The Middle. Coming this Fall.

Young Critics On The Edge  is a collaboration between Barnstorm Theatre Company,NAYD (National Association for Youth Drama) Ireland and Mess Up The Mess, Get the Chance (Wales) in conjunction with the Symposium strand of theASSITEJ Artistic Gathering for 2016.

Niamh Meehan and Tiarnán McCartney  participation at Young Critics On The Edge was supported by  Theatre NI , Young at Art and Theatre For Young Audiences Northern Ireland 

Young Critics On The Edge – Meet the Facilitators

On the 3rd of July, 12 Young Critics from across Ireland and the UK will descend upon Birmingham for the THE WORLD FESTIVAL OF THEATRE FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES.

In this blog we will be profiling the facilitators who who will be guiding the Young Critics through  On the Edge . The two facilitators are Anna Galligan and Alan King and both come with a wealth of knowledge and experience to the project

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Anna Galligan & Alan King – Facilitators for Young Critics On The Edge

Anna Galligan

Anna has been a professional arts worker for over 25 years. During this time she has worked as a professional actress, facilitated arts, dance, theatre and training programmes She has designed and delivered arts programmes and acted as a arts programme consultant in a variety of settings including youth theatre, mental health services, education and law.

Anna worked at the National Association for Youth Drama (NAYD) in Ireland for ten years. During her time at NAYD she created ArtsTrain, a full-time drama facilitation programme which became Ireland’s first full time accredited course in drama facilitation and introduced the programmes ‘Leading On…’, an annual training programme for youth theatre leaders and ‘The Young Critic’s Programme’ as well as developing various supports in terms of best practice and policy in youth theatre.

Anna is currently Outreach Officer with Barnstorm Theatre Company. As part of her work she is administrator, facilitator and artistic director of Kilkenny Youth Theatre. Anna continues to develop her practice in terms of critical analysis through her work with Red Square and Culture Club, a intergenerational critic’s programme looking at the Visual Arts and Theatre run in partnership with the Butler Gallery.

She is delighted to be teaming up with Alan and NAYD to deliver Young Critics On The Edge.

Alan King 

Alan has been professional arts worker for over 20 years. During this time his career has spanned acting, producing, directing, facilitating, venue management and arts consultancy for a wide variety of companies and organisations.

Since 2010 he has been Youth Theatre Officer for the National Association for Youth Drama in Ireland. He manages and co-facilitates the highly successful and innovative Young Critics Programme alongside Dr. Karen Fricker. Aimed at youth theatre members who are interested in watching, critically discussing and reviewing theatre,16 young people work together over a six-month period. Content is regularly added to the Young Critics Blog and the programme culminates with a live panel discussion at the Dublin Theatre Festival every October.

In addition to this Alan supports the sustained artistic development of youth theatres through the development of resources, training, support and advice and works on many other areas of NAYD’s national programme including  c0-producing the National Youth Theatre, IGNITE Youth Theatre Performance Festival and the National Festival of Youth Theatres.

He has also performed with many of Ireland’s leading theatre companies and he has worked on numerous directing, devising and facilitation projects with youth theatre/youth drama groups and professional companies. He is currently the Chair of Dublin Youth Theatre. 

He is delighted to be  co-facilitating with Anna at Young Critics On The Edge and sharing NAYD’s Young Critics practice with the symposium delegates.

Come join Young Critics On The Edge at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on July 7th  in the Parkside Building, Lecture Theatre from 5-6.30 to hear the Young Critics critical responses to several productions from On The Edge .

Learn about more Young Critics that are On The Edge here 

Young Critics On The Edge  is a collaboration between Barnstorm Theatre Company,NAYD (National Association for Youth Drama) Ireland and Mess Up The Mess, Get the Chance (Wales) in conjunction with the Symposium strand of theASSITEJ Artistic Gathering for 2016.

These Young Critics are On The Edge (Pt 2)

On the 3rd of July, 12 Young Critics from across Ireland and the UK will descend upon Birmingham for the THE WORLD FESTIVAL OF THEATRE FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES.

In the run up to to the Festival we will be profiling the Young Critics who will participating at On the Edge 

The Welsh contingent are Cerian and Richard. Their interest in Young Critics come from their involvement with Mess Up The Mess Theatre Company and Young Critics Wales 

Cerian Wilshere-Davies

Cerian

Cerian Wilshire- Davis – Young Critic On The Edge

My name is Cerian Wilshere-Davies, I am a member of Mess Up The Mess Theatre company, this is where I found my interest in writing. Since I took part in Talking Doorsteps Cardiff and have been writing and performing spoken word for about two years now. I also have a keen interest in writing for theatre.

Jonathan Richard Evans

Jonathan Richard Evans

Jonathan Richard Evans – Young Critic On The Edge

I am Jonathan Richard Evans. I have a blog in-which I write movie reviews but there are also a few essays on there too. I’m a graduate, with a film degree and have written and directed my own short film. I also have a few screenplays that haven’t been made. I am an avid reader and a tenacious watcher of TV and film. Which genre? Every one under the sun.

Come join Young Critics On The Edge at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on July 7th  in the Parkside Building, Lecture Theatre from 5-6.30 to hear the Young Critics critical responses to several productions from On The Edge .

Learn about more Young Critics that are On The Edge here 

Young Critics On The Edge  is a collaboration between Barnstorm Theatre Company,NAYD (National Association for Youth Drama) Ireland and Mess Up The Mess, Get the Chance (Wales) in conjunction with the Symposium strand of the ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering for 2016.