HAUNT

Packed with theatre, comedy, music, and support for artists heading to the Edinburgh Fringe
North Wall Arts Centre, South Parade, Oxford OX2 7NN, Sat 20 July 2019

Oxford-based Poltergeist Theatre is one of the North Wall Arts Centre’s home-grown Associate Companies, and for the second year they’re hosting a one-day extravaganza celebrating their experimental, inclusive approach to theatre. The day will feature workshops and talks as well as a range of performances, from fully-fledged plays to scratch spoken word pieces.

The evening will kick off with the return of Poltergeist’s popular scratch night, Ghost Night, where local performers will preview some of the work they’re taking up North to the Edinburgh Fringe. There will be comedy, spoken word and music from a talented crop, curated by Poltergeist. Then, the company itself will stage Art Heist, an interactive comedy sketch show addressing life’s existential questions such as:
Why rob an art gallery at all? Why abseil up the wall; sneak past security in a fake moustache; knock out the guard with the hammer you found under the stairs? Seriously, what are you even doing here?

The evening will be rounded off with BOAR, the new one-man fantasy caper from Lewis Doherty, whose last show, WOLF, went down a storm in Oxford. With so much variety you’re bound to have a blast, whatever your theatrical interests.


July 22, 2019
A thought-provoking night of wonder

Poltergeist Theatre is an inclusive theatre company with a joyful, risk-taking edge. They took over The North Wall Theatre for a thought-provoking night of wonder on Saturday 20th July.

The evening started with Ghost Night, where four emerging acts were encouraged to bring the riskiest segments of their new shows.

'Technology Meets Theatre' was the theme, as all acts used screens, projectors and recording equipment. First to the stage was Clumsy Bodies, offering a 'last known recording' of two Trans/Non-binary people hilariously documenting their fascination with cis people – specifically masculine archetypes. The script holds poignant conversation about masculinity from the actors’ own experience and characters they play. Apart from occasional instances of timing errors, Clumsy Bodies proved a comedy triumph.

Next to stage was I Swear I Saw This, a Docu-Theatre production company performing Lossless. This solo piece featured Sylvia, renowned for her interviewing skills, finally admitting defeat and being the interviewee. The writing is masterful, immersing the audience in the decaying house by the sea. Sylvia’s monologue is quippy and snappy, her sadness barely masked by sarcasm and unanswered questions.

Ghost Night finished on Mealspiel’s Computer Says No, a cocktail where repetitive script and wooden acting from the porn industry meets real-life tragedy. The two actors’ comedic timing was impeccable. A world full of innuendos, emotional blankness, caricatured expression and misunderstood affection peeled away in an instant to something more real. A beautiful, clothed porno featuring no sex acts with heartfelt emotion for the big finish.

The third act of the section - Livi Dunlop in Something to Tell - deserves special mention. Their monologue, painted the image of what it’s like to be non-binary. Livi let us into their daily dressing dilemma of trying to represent their gender identity, look eye catching, but also appear invisible in a dangerous world, which constantly assures it can be trusted. Livi stands in both their power and vulnerability in sharing their story and their talent.

The next part of the evening was a preview of Poltergeist's own Art Heist. Three thieves enter. All with different motives for stealing the same painting. One coin unites their story. Art Heist is a four-person comedy that manages to create several dimensions on one stage. The Security Guard is also the story teller, who seems to be able to control the characters with narrative, much to their horror. Whilst the characters aren’t aware of one another’s existence, their movements impact each others’ stories with dire but side-splitting consequences. Gaps are provided where audience members are asked to do repetitive motions on stage…. It doesn’t all quite fit together until the end. But when it does, it’s a beautiful work of choreography and acting - utterly flawless.

Concluding the festival, Lewis Doherty’s acting talent in his one-man-show BOAR is a spectacle to behold! Using two red lights, ambient background music, a step-ladder and his self-written script he transports us to the swashbuckling 7 kingdoms of Skadi. Doherty’s talent lies not just in acting and writing, but also in making his own sound effects! (Yes, just as good as that guy from Police Academy!) His characters presented a video-game-esque, self-made sound effect for every motion. Despite the super-human speed of shape shifting, attention to detail in each character is perfect, down to accents and pitch of voice, with never a step out of line. Doherty expertly portrays a range of characters, all granted equal intensity and depth. Seeing one person become these characters in group dialogue and choreography of fight scenes was a rare spectacle. Such was the reality of the journey that when the audience was not in awe, they were groaning at how gruesome the fight scenes were. Prepare to be entertained by this dramatic story full of potions, thieves and a cannibalistic princess with a feminist twist. Not to be missed!

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