Rear View

This IOU Theatre piece definitively gives a new perspective on life: for most of the show the audience are watching from the back of an open-top bus.

Specially converted for this very unusual type of street theatre, the raked seating makes the city a stage as the vehicle circuits around Bishopgate and Magdalen Street, stopping in a few hidden spaces on the way.

Throughout the journey poet performer Cecilia Knapp narrates the story of a 65-year-old woman, reflecting back on her life, her mistakes, her heartaches, and her moments of joy.

Her voice comes through headphones, her presence is fleeting: sometimes we see her on an improvised stage, sometimes a car following the bus. More often she is just an ethereal, disembodied voice: a memory of a memory.

The poetics are startling and the approach novel, though the connection between the two – and the host city – could be deeper.

Klanghaus: Four Storeys

Standing outside of a disused furniture store on a cold December night waiting for Klanghaus to start, those discarded Christmas party invitations might start to be tempting –  but this music and art cross over show from Norwich band The Neutrinos and long-term artist collaborator Sal Pittman is worth freezing your arts off for.

Inside you are teased though a series of rooms with Alice in Wonderland decoration – miniature beds, wooden chairs half swallowed up by concrete floors, telephones spotlighted beckoningly on walls – and projected films and unexpected art, while opportunely seduced with music from the band as they promenade too: sometimes with you, sometimes against you, sometimes entirely for themselves.

At times it feels like stumbling into a series of live music video: a drummer and guitarist trapped in an office and forced to play; a woodland scene where saws become bowstrings; a giant ballroom where lazy Americana drifts to your ears as effortlessly as the light dances over the tarnished walls.

For all this to be found on Muspole Street, in the dark, in winter, is a true box of delights.

The Measure of All Things

Life is measured in many ways: money, family, legacies left behind, even Elliot’s coffee spoons. But for film maker Sam Green the main measure is Guinness – or more precisely, the book of records to which the black stuff gave its name.

His live film The Measure of All Things explored some of the entries in the legendary tome, probing beyond the bare facts of the records to the people behind them: the enigmatic suicide of the man most struck by lightning; the bizarre rescue of a dying dolphin by the world’s tallest man; the surprisingly clarity with which you can hear a mechanical heart valve pumping in the world’s quietest place. (His filming of the last, to Green’s obvious pride, led to him appearing in a photo in the latest edition.)

Performed at the Theatre Royal as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, the piece mixes recorded film and stills with Green’s live narration and music from yMusic, a sextet that beautifully accompanies his stories.

Green also touches on the strange world of the McWhirter twins, who first edited the book, and the way their creation has taken on a life of its own, and its particular fascination for children.

This is a charming, funny, and intriguing piece and it deserved a bigger audience.

Those that did make it left with a richer understanding of what life is all about.

451

Drones sweep overhead, orders are barked from speakers, and fires burn all around: so opens the ambitious, dystopian finale of this year’s Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

Performed to thousands of people on derelict land just outside of the city centre, Periplum’s 451 was all about the scale of the spectacular. Dozens of poles topped with aerials and speakers dotted the performance area, searchlights bedazzled and blinded the audience as they were advanced on by giant wheeled ladders carrying the piece’s ironically titled ‘firemen’ from scene to scene.

Based on Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the show tells the story of Montag, a ‘fireman’ charged with burning books who doubts his mission and begins to hoard and prize the contraband literature.

It does it with bombast and fierce style, whether it’s the violin player standing atop a pyre or the lead spinning uncontrollably in a gyroscope as his confusion and confliction take hold.

A large-scale production is perhaps not the place for subtlety but Periplum’s stripping down of the story removes some of Montag’s humanity and therefore his motivation: we do not see his wife, his curious relationship with his young neighbour, his forced destruction of what he holds dear.

There was more room for political comment, with the strident fire captain barking that we have been tolerant for too long and that is no longer enough to obey the law — words that I doubt were accidentally close to those used by David Cameron in a recent speech on extremism.

On its own terms this was a sensory feast and an engaging piece of outdoor theatre.

As a retelling of Bradbury’s novel, it lost a little too much plot to the flames.

The Redux Project

Norfolk has played the background for many movies but what would those films be like if the Hollywood stars were replaced with local people, and the army-like production teams replaced by one man and a slightly battered camcorder?

Comedian, performer and now film maker Richard DeDomenici has the answer with his Redux Project, which recreates films shot by shot in their original location but with slightly different production values.

As part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, DeDomenici was commissioned by Norwich Arts Centre to reimagine box office smash Avengers: Age of Ultron, part of which was filmed at the University of East Anglia.

In his new version, premiered tonight, the stunning backdrop of the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is the same but everything else is different – and much more charming than the slick superhero original.

Delivered alongside another Norwich recreation, this time from Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, and some of his previous work, DeDomenici crafts a geekily entertaining evening which is to film what Adam Buxton’s Bug is to music videos.

Bruce Forsyth

What drives an 87-year-old man to spend two hours on a Norwich stage? For Sir Bruce Forsyth, the answer seems to be a genuine love of entertaining.

Sir Bruce has been performing since he was just 14, with a career that spans singing, dancing, comedy and, perhaps most-famously, game show hosting.

He’s been made a CBE, an OBE and a knight but what he still seems to craves most is an audience’s affection.

Monday night’s show at the Norwich Theatre Royal was a warm up for his return to the London Palladium, his spiritual home, later this month and, despite his long career, was his first visit to Norwich.

Sure the jokes were cheesy, the catchphrases predictable, the singing and piano playing a little hit and miss, the dancing (sat down tap) – er – measured.

But if I’m even alive by 87, let alone commanding a full house to a standing ovation, it’ll be a bloody miracle; and it’s hard to imagine Brucie’s former Strictly Come Dancing co-host Tess Daly ordering a breakfast without the help of an autocue, let alone storming her way through a two-hour set with self-deprecation and a constant, ironic, knowing twinkle.

He was strongest when 
interacting with the audience: getting four men up on stage to act as his backing dancers; one lucky lady to dance with him; and pledging to support the Canaries in a question and answer session.

But from start to finish this living legend had the audience in the palm of his hand.

So, yes, Brucie, it was very nice to see you.

You’re one of a kind.

Knightmare Live

A tolling bell, a thumping heartbeat, an empty knapsack. For people of a certain generation that means only one thing: Knightmare.

The children’s adventure game was a teatime television favourite from 1987 to 1994, and filmed in Anglia TV’s then studios on Magdalen Street.

Its cancellation left teenagers frustrated at never having the chance to take on the show’s challenges: until tonight. Sort of.

Paul Flannery took the role of dungeon master Treguard in a live-action loving pastiche with two audience members guiding a volunteer quester – 14-year-old Alan – through the riddles and deadly risks conjured up by a surprisingly camp Lord Fear (Tom Bell).

This was a knowing, affectionate and very entertaining show, packed with in-references and 90s jokes, deservedly lapped up by a Norwich Playhouse audience.

The illusion continues.

Stand-Buy For Tape Back-Up

It’s strange the things we can get nostalgic about: for Ross Sutherland, it’s the humble videotape.

The central – slightly stretching – conceit of his latest show, Stand-Buy For Tape Back-Up is a tape containing clips recorded by him and his grandad, clips that played backwards, in slow motion, and on repeat form a synchronised visual background to spoken poetry.

This paen to the VCR is beautifully produced, with the hiss and pops of the worn-out tape punctuating Sutherland’s words and some delicious moments of synchronicity as clips from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the Crystal Maze, Ghostbusters and even banking adverts blend in unlikely harmony with his meditations on his childhood, his grandfather’s death and his own struggles with asthma and depression.

Always one of the strongest lyrically of the Aisle 16 poets, Sutherland’s wordplay is extended on to the screen with the antics of Will Smith and hapless gameshow contestants being twisted in to metaphors of his own creation, and the pace of the video matched to the changing metre of his own delivery.

The closing coda around the film Jaws feels a little at odds with the rest of the show, but this is still a work in progress and no doubt that will be fixed as the piece heads to the Edinburgh Fringe. Sutherland is not about to fade away.

How Like An Angel

There is an inscription in one of the chapels at Norwich Cathedral that reads “except for the still part there would be no dance”.

In How Like An Angel that still point is a transfixed, emotionally toyed with audience that sit in the heart of the church as a phenonemal combination of music and physical theatre unfolds around them.

A collaboration between Australian circus company Circa and vocal ensemble I Fagiolini the show was first performed in Australia, where it received some criticism for being performed in cathedrals.

But they seem a perfect venue, not just for the blend of spiritual choral music that pervades the performance: the small choir literally pursuing the audience with original and traditional music from across the centuries and continents.

The dance mixes daring aerial moves with physical, catwalk theatricality, as the angels falteringly grow accustomed to their bodies, collaborative and playful at first.

With confidence comes arrogance and competiveness – literally climbing the pole in a allegory that matches Paradise Lost.

This is an astounding and awe-inspiring group of strong and powerful actor-acrobats backed by an inspiring score.

A true testament, as Hamlet’s words suggest, to the glory of man – and some would say the glory of God.

Bunny

Bunny deserves something better than this review.

Or rather, Rosie Wyatt – who delivers an astounding one-hour monologue as the heart of Jack Thorne’s play – does.

As Katie she deftly tells the story of an afternoon walk home from school in Luton, an seemingly innocuous adventure that becomes the canvas for a revealing series of events.

A fight, stand-offs, romance – or at least the casual, confused, hurtful teenage kind – and the sometimes tumultuous coallition of cultures that makes up life in modern Britain are woven together with revelations of her formative experiences, all told in a passionate, authentic and evocative voice.

Thorne (who wrote the screenplay for last year’s excellent The Scouting Book For Boys, based in a north Norfolk caravan park) expertly unfolds the story, interspersing the day’s events with memories of birthday parties, shoplifting and sex; the dialogue nestling unsettlingly between street patois and the Guardian-reading vocabulary of Katie’s parents.

Against a subtle and sensitive backdrop of animated illustrations by Ian William Galloway and Jenny Turner, Wyatt crafts this in to an exceptional and captivating performance, blissfully unaware of herself but displaying her character’s fully self-conscious state and gently mimicking the other players in the retelling both verbally and physically.

The performance won last year’s Edinburgh Fringe First Award and it deserves to win many more; it also deserved a bigger audience in Norwich, and the Playhouse more support for bringing drama of this calibre to the city.