A festival celebrating European Theatre could not be in Central London at a more poignant time. In these days of Brexit and where we currently are as a country, this festival conceited by ‘Viola! Europe’ is a perfect example of why we need to come together and celebrate our varied cultures in this trying time.

Last night the Tristan Bates Theatre showcased three of the multitude of shows on offer during the festival. ‘A Voice’, ‘Dark Matter’ and ‘Don’t You Dare!’. Here are three miniature reviews on the pieces respectively during this monumental festival.

A Voice

‘A Voice’ is a one-woman show about the rise and fall of 1960s French pop-star (and Eurovision winner) Angéle. In an hour piece told almost completely in flashback, we see the young ingenue fall under the wing of music maestro Francois and how her life is changed forever.

Our actress (Anne Bertreau) has eyeballs full of anxious excitement and the sharp text finds itself to be quite distorted and uneasy through her performance. I’m not sure how purposeful this as, as we are watching a woman recollect some traumatic times in her past. We see a character who refuses she’s on the cusp of a mental breakdown and it’s hard to watch. The story is very interesting but the execution isn’t as defining as it should be. We end up hearing a story rather than going through the journey with Angéle.

Musical numbers stand out for lyrics and composition, but other than that, the show struggles to find its focus. This piece was written in light of the #metoo movement and attempts to show how one’s life can change by ‘speaking up’. We warm to Angéle nearer the end but Bertreau’s performance is slightly harder to warm to.

‘A Voice’ is able to highlight a poignant piece of history but manages to just recite it rather than give us some fresh insight.

RATING – 2 out of 5 stars

Dark Matter

‘Dark Matter’ explores the circumstances of the elderly living with dementia – watching your life flash before your eyes in those final moments and asking the questions about what happens next. Vertebra Theatre uses visuals and puppetry to tell the story of Alfredo, an elderly Italian astrophysicist who is reflecting on his life. It’s a very mesmerising piece.

Vertebra Theatre is a group collected of European theatre-makers who create and devise their pieces through visual arts, dance and more. When we meet Alfredo, he is in a care home in London, struggling to grasp with what is happening to him. We go through his life and his love of science with well-choreographed movement, poignant music accompaniment and encapsulating projections.

The show tugs at your hearts string for the most of it and the puppet has been masterfully made for you to connect with Alfredo. One to watch.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Don’t You Dare!

In an exploration of the Commedia dell’Arte in both the 16th century to today, director and actress Chiara D’Anna returns to London for what is considered a masterpiece in theatre and political satire. Her one-woman show explores the Mask characters in Commedia dell’Arte (the actress primadona, the old woman the businessman, the solider, etc) and how they relate even more nowadays. She is able to highlight a world gone mad in this intellectual storytelling, leaving the audience uplifted, angry, upset and humoured all in one!

She tells us stories of an actress in the 1600s, put on trial for witchcraft due to her ability to mesmerise audiences with her talent. She highlights the attacks on women, art and freedom of expression with a variety of effective characters. You even feel safer in the more dark parts of the story – we are in safe hands in this incredibly complex and grand subject matter.

D’Anna is nothing short of phenomenal. A naturally funny and enigmatic performer. Even before the beginning of the show, she is gesturing you in, bellowing from her lungs and jumping around. Her charisma is what makes the show and what makes Don’t You Dare! the highlight of a great evening of physical theatre, comedy and satire in this worthwhile and poignant festival!

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

‘A Voice’ runs until 13th April and tickets can be bought HERE.

‘Dark Matter’ runs until 13th April and tickets can be bought HERE.

‘Don’t You Dare!’ runs until 13th April and tickets can be bought HERE.

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