This was the debut production from newly established This Just In Theatre Company with writer and director Jay Giblin’s short piece set during early Twentieth century Russia and culminating in the October Revolution.

The play commences with Ukrainian peasant Boris (Gareth Crawshaw) and wife Maria (Amy Feeley) giving birth to their son. Fast forward seventeen years and Yuri (Cameron Bentley-Jones) is now a young man with a younger sister Natasha (Bridget Boland). Times are changing though, and our family are Petrograd-bound where pre-war they encounter political unrest for the first time and Yuri falls in with rougher elements Ivan (Toby Jones) and Alex (Sian Watson). With multiple support roles provided by Stephen Wooder and Laura Smith, the descent of a country and its people is captured perfectly after the interval in a sublime albeit too brief performance from Fiona Williams as The Widow.

So, armed with an array of theatrical talent, both front and back of house as well as on stage, why didn’t the sum of the parts add up to a great total? I’m renowned for looking for the positive and my comments are meant very much in that vein.

First, the venue. There are many limitations with the basement space at The Black-E that have been exploited by others, but which didn’t support this production and so to be fair I won’t labour them other than to emphasise the importance of selecting the right venue.

Second, the use of AV. Unless it is adding something that can’t be captured live on stage then in my view avoid it otherwise it’s just a gimmick - one that will let you down technically on the night or go on too long.

There’s a long debate in theatre about writing and directing and whether you should direct your own work. I think this is an interesting piece that cleverly covers a range of issues - gender; tradition; new ideas; social change – that transcend the piece itself and the period. I felt too often though we were told rather than shown and I wonder if a separate director would have interpreted it differently whilst resolving the conundrum between straight drama and comic elements/slapstick, as well as addressing what was at least one scene change too many.

It’s a brave thing to set up a new company and even braver to perform your own play for your debut production and I have the upmost respect for Giblin and co. for doing that. Maybe one step at a time though and take full advantage of that rich array of talent who clearly believe in this venture.

I will end on a positive: the scene where the family come to their local train station was superbly handled with perfectly timed choreography - I don’t know many companies who could have pulled that off so well.

This Just In Theatre Company are newly established and based in Liverpool. Their focus is to raise awareness of current issues occurring in society today and shine some light on government and expose some home truths. Further details https://thisjustintheatre.wordpress.com/

The Black-E (formerly The Blackie) was established in the 1960's with a commitment to combine a contemporary arts centre with a community centre. Having taken over the former Great George Street Congregational Church in October 1967, it is considered the UK's first community arts project and a centre where all the arts (performing and making, experimental and traditional) engage with all the people who choose to come through its doors (young and old, disadvantaged and privileged). Further details http://www.theblack-e.co.uk/

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 24th October 2017

Comments   

0 #2 Martin Williams 2017-10-28 22:49
(Earlier comment continued)

Excellent positive elements in the play, in my eyes, were also the following...

Amy Feeley was outstanding in the lead role, with great stage presence throughout and a captivating performance.

The one point I agree on in this review is the excellent monologue performed by Fiona Williams. 'Sublime' is perhaps the one accurate word in this whole piece.

Gareth Crashaw - great speaking projection and he was really believable in his role.

AV - In my eyes provided an arresting break between elements of the play, and I see very little justification for its absurd lambasting!

To the cast I'd say please ignore this ludicrous review. What I saw was a passionately acted performance, that told a human story against a political backdrop. Keep going, and never let ill-informed negativity be a barrier to your future success!
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0 #1 Martin Williams 2017-10-28 22:35
What an appallingly negative review!

I also attended this production, and I will share my own thoughts, as well as my opinions on this bizarre interpretation I have just read.

To begin, what was wrong with the venue? Why vaguely allude to this venue issue, and not state what the problems were? I found the arena atmospheric and intimate. A small underground world, in an evocative and historic building. What is the problem in that?

Next, I think Jay Giblin should be applauded for his emotionally charged and original script. In a style somewhat reminiscent of Sean O'Casey, this fast-paced play suggested how political upheaval breaks apart families and leaves relationships in a state of tension that cannot be resolved. In its current form, the play is concise and quickly moving, but I could see how elements of it could be expanded in the future with extra highly-charged scenes.(Please see continuation in my next comment)
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