by Saschk Drakos
Arts in Touch invited us along to Northern Stage’s May First in 3. If you’ve never been, you should definitely keep an eye out for the next one. First in 3 offers the wide range of theatre-folk the opportunity to test out new work on a bunch of willing subjects and gain feedback, and allows audience members to see what sorts of things are in development, and chat with the performers, writers and directors behind the pieces – not to mention bump into a number of active members of Newcastle’s creative community. I arrived a bit early, and before I knew it, found myself in the midst of a coterie of familiar faces from previous events.
The first piece of the evening was Noize Choir’s adaptation of E. M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops”. The group created an impressive soundscape, which included the audience as part of the machine, that gave the effect added weight with different sounds literally surrounding you during the performance. I found the synchronicity and creativity used in creating the sounds quite fascinating, though I would have liked a little more visual stimulation to go along with it. The performers stood in a semi-circle around a single microphone throughout, and my attention to the story itself started to wander after a bit. Overall, though, it was an intriguing concept and a great way to kick off the evening.
Backscratch Theatre came next with Any Good Thing (which can be seen at Theatre Royal on June 7!). The excerpt they performed for us centred around mining life, brilliantly using comedy and folk songs to get the audience to play (and sing) along. The feedback form said the play itself was geared towards family audiences, and there’s no doubt that it would appeal to children and adults alike.
The last act before the interval was an excerpt from Spear Carriers by Alphabetti Spaghetti, which covered a series of scenes between two extras as they waited backstage. The comedic elements of each scene were quite funny, but if it had lasted much longer, their repetitive quality would start to wear thin.
Following the interval, Talk With Leap introduced us to M.A.R.I.O.U.L.A.. Of all the pieces performed, this is probably the most difficult to describe. Originally written in Greek, the night’s extract was the first performance of it in English, and contained references to Greek culture that integrated quite seamlessly into the narrative. The monologue itself felt more like a conversation we were part of, or could be part of, if we chose to answer back, as we followed a woman’s decision to commit suicide and her journey in the afterlife. The performance itself seemed to have a jumpy start, but Aliki Chapple (who also translated the piece) found her groove soon enough, and throughout the question of What’s going to happen next? kept me intrigued. M.A.R.I.O.U.L.A. is funny, thoughtful, philosophical, and probably most significantly, very, very human. I look forward to (hopefully) seeing the full production in the future.
Finishing off the night, we were treated by Arts in Touch’s own Lashes & Tashes, a humorous one-act about Clive and Allen, a pair of conjoined twins who also happen to be drag queens. Lee Mattinson’s humour is caustic and witty, though there were some moments where it seemed like the comedic aspect interfered with some of the more serious moments fully coming into themselves. Talented as the two actors were, they weren’t believable as drag queens, and I find it curious that Mattinson chose to cast two women in this role. In my opinion, Lashes & Tashes has the potential to explore some very poignant and socially relevant issues through its intrinsic humour, but, in this incarnation, opted for quick laughs instead. (It should be noted, however, that the audience seemed to not share my reservations and were quite enthralled.)