Monday, 3 April 2017

REVIEW: The Strike a Light festival

The Strike a Light festival is an exciting Gloucester based cultural event which take place twice a year and promotes local work and brings high quality programming to new audiences in Gloucester with year round projects. 

Creatively it is led by a young energetic and exciting group with Co-Artistic Directors Emma-Jane Benning and Sarah Blowers and producers Ellie Harris, Christina Poulton, Malaki Patterson. 

The support of The Arts Council England, Battersea Arts Centre/Collaborative touring network, the Esmee Fairburn Foundation underpins the festival and gives it a confidence to experiment and plan for growth. The resident and council of the City of Gloucester have a little gem to support and nurture. 

The opening night in the flexible blackbox venue that the Gloucester Guildhall has become is a social occasion and a showcase for new talent and work in progress, a chance to mingle and share ideas and ambitions for the artistes and the Festival. 

For this year’s spring Festival three performances were showcased and all have to be viewed as work in progress and in development and therefore judged on the basis of the potential and raw talent rather than as polished finished performances. 

First up was a two hander extract from a potential new musical play based on apparently true story and presented with the feel of verbatim theatre on a bare stage except for two chairs and a pole dancing set up. It tells the story of the conflict in a small village when the hall is hired to a pole dancing fitness class between the women attending the class and the traditional users and local residents. In this short extract the wonderful two actresses played two parts each and through simple costume changes conveyed the change of character and engaged the audience despite carrying their scripts. Well written, and directed these two women showed their own and the plays potential to develop the show into something rather interesting, perhaps even the next Stepping Out! 

Next up was Thembe Mvula , a beautiful and talented artiste with a lovely tone of voice and rhythmic delivery that is intoxicating and touching as she spoke and sang blank verse against the background of an African sounding music track. The raw talent on show was exciting and with more direction and more contextual setting for her story telling her words could be more impactful and moving. She held our attention although her long pauses at times felt disruptive to her performance. 

Finally we saw the first ever performance of BAAST a young couple of musicians who performed in front of a large screen with projected psychedelic imagery. Described as an experimental dance fiesta with neon syrup it was intriguing with a lead singer with an attractive voice. I am too young for the drug induced sixties psychedelia and too old for modern techno or house music so again the lack of context for what I was watching and hearing detracted from my enjoyment as did the constant knob twisting and button pushing that accompanied the sound. But I had no doubt that the underlying musicality, the strong lead voice and the interlinked visual imagery has potential. 

The festival continues with Reassembled on 30th March to 1st April, Bucket List on 31st and 1st, Ten from ACE dance on 3rd and 4th April, An elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo on 5th April and the NT’s My country on 8th and 9th May. 

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★

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