Sunday, 24 June 2012

Losing the Plot: a review

Life is full of happy little examples of the butterfly effect. Not all involve Fuji-san and hurricanes. Some bring true, undiluted joy. It's happened before in a singularly life changing way, both recently and many, many years ago. Actually, now there's a subject for a blog post, thought it is rather part of my old life. Hmm, I'll think about that.

Anyway, as I was saying. Little happenings, big results. Now this is where I have to admit to one of my spoof accounts, I operate the @LimehouseCut account, the idea being to talk about life around Limehouse Cut from the canal's point of view. So the other week the canal was a little grubby, human detritus, something dead floating in the water, generally a bit meh. I wondered who was responsible for the Cut, more to the point, were they on Twitter?

They were! So a quick plaintive plea was put out to British Waterways, please send the little cleaning boat... Whether or not they ever did I have no idea, I did ask the Cut, but being the strong, silent and discreet type it refused to answer. But what I did find was that the Cut had a new follower, @mikrontheatre.

Oh. What's this?

It transpired it's a touring theatre company that uses the canal network as its modus operandi, how fabulous, a small band of wandering Thespians. In a boat. What could be better?! I read their blurb:
“Mikron is the little touring theatre company with the reputation for tackling large scale subjects and turning history into vivid and dramatic entertainment. 
We tour on our narrowboat, Tyseley, in the summer and by road in the autumn, to every conceivable type of venue, reaching audiences that other companies cannot.”
Oh! And they were coming to the LondonCanal Museum a few days later. Rather annoyingly they were putting on two different shows on two different nights, one of which I couldn't attend as I would be attending a concert featuring my flatmate. And she would never forgive me. I booked a pair of tickets for the Wednesday to see Losing the Plot. How could I not, the title at least matched my current state of mind.

Originally I'd hoped to be able to take my lovely bezzie along for the evening, but she was unsure whether she would still be working at that point. Hmm. So I put out a who wants to come message on Twitter...


Honestly. Free ticket. I know it would mean having to speak with me at some point, but I'm not that scary. Am I? Oh well. Later in the day though, my theatre buddy @These_Boots popped up, oooh. I could have kicked myself, why hadn't I thought of her before? Well, I had, briefly, but thought it might be impossible as she was no longer working in London. Duh. I'm not very bright at times. Funnily enough, my flatmate asked me exactly the same thing when I said there was a chance she would be able to attend.

Yes, I really am thick at times. And she knows it.

Anyway, I couldn't have asked for a better companion and, being the sort of lovely person she is, she insisted on paying for her ticket, though it wasn't required. So, fast forwarding a bit. The big night. The show, fortunately, had a latish start, handy as my friend was attending an event where she felt it was bad form to leave the High Sheriff in the lurch and pop off to see a band of wandering Thespians.

Tssk. Priorities darling.

The good news was that the Canal Museum is a seven minute full tilt walk from Kings Cross. And the train was on time. And we didn't get stuck in crowds of aimless tourists. Quite a win really.

The Canal Museum is a fabulous little place, I keep meaning to visit properly, one for a future weekend I think. I was very aware of it as it's sort of opposite Kings Place, a regular haunt of my flatmate and I. And canals are something I've become increasingly interested in, I imagine as a direct result of living by a canal. That and being a bit of a history junkie.

The audience was a reasonable size, though I didn't do a headcount, or even a chair count for that matter. There wasn't a stage as such, more a centrepiece prop that gave the impression of an aged shed door on an allotment. Oh yes, which reminds me, the synopsis...

Set in Thistledale, the allotmenteers were a happy bunch about to celebrate the diamond jubilee of their formation, along with their annual “Heaviest and Longest” competition, when their world was rocked by the mysterious Harvey from the council...

I won't go in to the detail of what happens in the play. Why? Well, I believe if you love theatre, or just want a really good laugh you should go and see it. It was one of the most entertaining pieces of theatre I've seen in a long time. It mixed elements of music hall, with comedy, a little sexual innuendo, kazoos and a serious, beautifully presented, point.

The final solution to their world being rocked was found, and the deliciousness of the idea presented was a loophole with sparkly diamonds wrapped in a twist of anti-bureaucratic irony. It was beautifully done, and perfectly presented.

There was a taste of humour, history, political indifference, David and the Goliath, jealousy, love. And marrows. Obvs.

The songs were superb, particularly the “Ballad of the Allotmenteers” a ripping ride of social history from the Saxons to present day. For emotions and an impression of the sadness of a lonely heart you couldn't better “Cabbages and Peas” sung by Maud. Oh, and Harvey Granelli's “The Italian Connection”. Oh gawd, I'm going to list them all at this rate.

The highlight though? The audience being encouraged to sing-a-long with the Marrow Song!

Now here's the thing, when I think of performances I rate them by whether or not I could suspend my disbelief. I did so recently during part of a recent performance of Salome, similarly seeing La Traviata at St Marks Church in Florence (must write about that). That moment when you find your mind is telling you you're not sitting in a museum near Kings Cross, but are actually in a small allotment. In t'north.

And I got this in spades (sorry). The transformation of Ruth to Brenda, or Maud to April the bee keeper were sublime, but Colin (ex drummer, maybe a bit too wild in his youth) to Harvey (swarthy, shiny suit and, mama mia, strutting) was astounding. The fact that as they changed characters they left the old character as a broomstick was ignored. They were all, totally, utterly, real.

It was fantastic.

I have to apologise to the rest of the audience that night, my friend and I laughed, a lot, I have not been so entertained in such a complete way in such a long time. I can't even begin to tell you how much you should see this play if you can, it has something for everyone and it's put in with such simple perfection that you will come away...


Yes. It was one of those. In the same way that seeing La Traviata in Florence ruined opera for me as I had seen it in its purest, distilled, essence and big productions now feel false by comparison, this play had achieved the same. And then some. It might be a while before I can see a normal production without feeling slightly ripped off by the bloated extravagance.

I did have a similar experience last year when I saw Into Thy Hands at Wilton's Music Hall, but where that moved me with the sheer intensity of the emotions, Losing the Plot left me feeling nothing but elated.

You can't ask for more than that.

So, if you want to see theatre at its purest and best, get thee to the Mikron website and see if they are performing near you. You won't regret it.

Trust me, a canal told me.

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