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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

The Monster chills: Frankenstein @Blackeyedtheatr

There are more than just the usual chills in Blackeyed Theatre's Frankenstein. And it wasn't due to the lack of any perceptible heating at Greenwich Theatre last week during a particularly bitter cold snap.

Mary Shelley's tale is given a theatrical flourish in this adaptation by John Ginman. Percussion instruments underscore the tension and the monster is depicted by a giant puppet. He isn't particularly hideous and that makes you even more sympathetic towards him.

Perhaps that is the intention. Designed and built by Yvonne Stone (of Warhorse and His Dark Materials fame) and worked on by three actors, it is an impressive thing. It breathes. It leaps about the stage. It stares. It looks abandoned and unloved.  And when he starts to kill as revenge for his treatment even if you're familiar with the story, it still manages to surprise and shock.

The piece takes a little time to get going, but once it does it is worth the wait. With music, tension  and the giant puppet it becomes quite a spectacle.

It opens with Frankenstein (Ben Warwick) in pursuit of the beast near the North Pole and Frankenstein telling his tale to Captain Walton. Here he is pretty unsympathetic. He is a man obsessed with the meaning of life while letting life (and others) pass him by.

Max Gallagher as Henry and Lara Cowin as Elizabeth give the piece its human element and its heart.

The rest of the cast fill out supporting characters and provide the evocative musical accompaniment.

Directed Eliot Giuralarocca, it has concluded its run at the chilly Greenwich Theatre.  But is continuing its tour around the country until 22 March. Catch the beast if you can. Check their website for dates.


Photos: production images by Alex Harvey-Brown

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