Reviews Derby Published 27 July 2015

DEparture Lounge: Day 2

Derby Theatre ⋄ 24th July 2015

All this and ice-cream too.

James Varney
Milk Presents: Joan

Milk Presents: Joan

In my write-up of day 1 of Derby Theatre and In Good Company’s DEparture Lounge Festival, I mentioned Derby constantly outdoing themselves. Now I feel like they’re trying to do me in. On my second day in Derby, I arrived at Derby Theatre at 12:00pm and didn’t head home until ten-and-a-half hours later. And I didn’t even manage to see everything. Aside from disappointing my ‘gotta catch ’em all’ inner child, though, the day was exhausting but hella rad.

I’ll Keep Waiting On the Pavement for the Ice Cream Van to Come – Old Salt Theatre

It’s a summer’s day in the middle of July in Britain – so of course it’s raining – so of course it’s time for an ice cream! Equipped with umbrellas by DEparture Lounge’s ever dedicated front of house team, we gather in front of Old Salt Theatre’s real-life, working ice cream truck. It all feels incredibly British (read: stubborn – ‘I don’t care if it’s raining, I’ve got my ticket, I’m going to see some theatre’).

We hear the history, distant and recent, of the ice cream, that most quintessential of British treats (read: imported, adopted and appropriated). There’s singing, there’s dancing, there’s Mussolini, there’s Thatcher! What more could you ask for from a show delivered from an ice cream truck? Free ice cream, probably. WELL, ISN’T IT A COINCIDENCE YOU GET A FREE ICE CREAM WITH YOUR TICKET? A 99, no less. That’s quality theatre right there – gives the people what they want.

[Sharing] – The Grandad Project – Maison Foo

Maison Foo have been thinking about Grandads. This is a collection of scraps of their thoughts, ideas and forms they’re experimenting with. I love scratch. As a side note, the best scratch night I’ve ever been to was back in 2013, and hosted by Maison Foo. They’re a couple of good eggs.

There’s a great community atmosphere in the way Maison Foo interact with their audience. It’s all very sincere, very friendly and, at times, vulnerable. As if reaching out a hand, the Foo share their personal struggles with coming to terms with never having known their Grandfathers. They transform DEparture Lounge’s Garden Stage into a very intimate and safe space.

There’s some daft moments, beautiful bits of live video and projection, messages written on toilet roll. All with a core of inquiry, distance, yearning to understand the two men these two women have never met. This is far from being a completed piece of theatre, but what Maison Foo have looks set to create a show both entertaining and heartfelt.

[Extract] – JOAN – Milk Presents

So JOAN premiered last weekend in Derby Theatre’s studio space and I was well gutted to have missed it. A one woman show, starring drag king LoUis CYfer, written and directed by Lucy J. Skilbeck, JOAN retells the story of Joan of Arc using contemporary drag as an aesthetic frame. And doesn’t that sound fantastic? I wanted to see the full show even before I saw this preview and it was such a tease.

As Joan, Lucy Jane Parkinson’s control over the audience is constant; brash, rough round the edges, but totally endearing, we’re always on her side. Moments of audience interaction function like acts of deception, one moment audience members are helping with the gluing on of a fetching blue glitter moustache goatee combo for a musical number, the next we’re coerced into investment in a battle, chanting and making horse noises. Thread by thread, Joan weaves us into the fabric of her world.

And this was just a little bit of the show. I want more. Very much hope to see the full show once it’s touring.

[Work In Progress] – Focus Group* – TOOT

I saw Toot’s Be Here Now at Derby Theatre late last year. It was sweet, charming, a bit sad, nostalgic. Going into this WIP of Focus Group* I suppose I was expecting something similar. And there are some similarities, though where Be Here Now was a bit sad, Focus Group* is damn soul-crushing. We the audience are split into two facing seating banks, forming two separate focus groups, and we bear witness to Terry’s descent. I’ll not say what to or where from because there are lots of answers to that, but I will say it felt total.

Being part of the focus group, Terry asks questions about brands. We are asked to look at the facing audience and imagine things about their lives. We are told how well Terry is able to read us. We are all reducible down to our function, our relevance, our usefulness. It’s simple and brutal and our selves are erased by our part in this audience as much as Terry’s is by his helpless position in a corporate frame.

Coupled with an incredibly garish Utopia yellow carpet and armchair, an animal head, and some smart stagecraft, this parable of limiting life down to human usefulness is as beautiful as it is bleak. I’m very excited to see where it’s headed.

*Or How to Stare Down and Transfigure Loneliness

[Sharing] – Cloud Cuckoolanders –  LaPelle’s Factory

Ollie and Olwen are hosting movie night. And we’re all invited. Which is a good job because we’re all here anyway. Yes, we’re all here and there’s no way you’re thinking of leaving yet, there’s hot chocolate! and popcorn! and a cushion to share! I feel like LaPelle’s Factory have perhaps been unfortunate with the social gatherings they’ve attended in this past, as this one slowly takes a turn to the discussion of Bonnie & Clyde, tooth-collecting, and a very Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? holding of the audience to ransom.

At points along the road in this brief tour of control and manipulation, I lost sight of what the audience’s relation to the couple onstage was. Though this was probably more due to the nature of the sharing being a collection of ideas, rather than a finished piece. Considering some of the subject matter, I’m interested to see to what extent LaPelle’s attempt to safeguard their audiences. With live video feed, some actual milk teeth (jeepers), and a coffee-table-book-load of sinister stage presence, this is a movie night not for the weak of constitution.


James Varney

James is a writer and theatre maker, based in the middle parts of England. He has created work with Daniel Bye, Josh Coates and Lenni Sanders and had work presented at Derby Theatre, The Royal Exchange, Manchester Literature Festival, Live at LICA and Camden People’s Theatre. James enjoys Peanut Butter, DIY Punk and Long Walks On The Beach.