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Bear with me: Stitches @TheHopeTheatre

What if your teddy bear could talk? My ten-year-old self would think that to be excellent. My more recent self would think it was a high-concept buddy movie with Mark Wahlberg. But in Stictches, Jonathan Blakeley's monologue, which he has written and performed, traces the life of his beloved Chloe, from when she was first given to him by her grandmother, wrapped with a red ribbon. It becomes a story not just about a cute bear (or maybe that should be rough, shaggy-looking bear given the performer’s appearance) observing life but an exploration of life and all of its stages. It's currently playing at the Hope Theatre .  The bear is not warm and fuzzy; he is a bit of a character and tough-talking, but also a bit anxious about being accepted and then discarded as nothing. But he is there to bear witness as she navigates the complicated facets of growing up and having a life. Ultimately, the bear has to deal with being consigned to a box with her other memories until circumstances

Hopes for 2017: The Doppel Gang @tristanbatestheatre

Things I am hopeful about for theatre this year after catching The Doppel Gang at the Tristan Bates Theatre:

More shows featuring the music, drama and comedy of music hall. 

The Mother Goose panto at Wilton's last year gave a few quick flashes of music hall style with a few numbers. Here this show is set in the pre-television era where an evening's entertainment is a night out at the theatre. It's a lost art that could do with being resurrected.

More borrowing of classic comedy sketches that don't involve Monty Python. 

There is a Faulty Towers Live show that is winding its way around Australia as part of John Cleese's pension plan. But there are is plenty of other comedy that could be recreated, borrowed, or repurposed. The Marx Brothers are a case in point.

Unfortunately while the Doppel Gang includes these two elements, there is an awful lot of moody drama between jokes. There is also the tired premise of a struggling (this time it's a theatre troupe) during the blitz. Perhaps it is time the war is left to Remembrance Day as we are not doing it any favours evoking it in the the theatre.

The moody drama and occasional loud explosions make the piece too confusing to follow. It also dilutes the comic potential (and any originality) of the material.

With it's elbaroate set it is a slick looking production from the Just Some Theatre Company. The company was founded by Jake Urry and Peter Stone who feature in the piece. But mis-timed performances and a muddled plot make for a bewildering night at the theatre.

Directed by Terence Man, The Doppel Gang runs at the Tristan Bates Theatre until 11 February.

In the meantime you can always see the real Marx Brothers online...


Photo credit: Mitchell Reeve

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