This review first appeared in What’s Peen Seen
Curve is one of the most distinctive buildings in Leicester and the UK, a theatre famous for having no backstage space thus allowing audiences to see the innards of a working artistic venue: walk under racks of costumes hanging in the rafters, see sets under construction and mingle with actors queuing up at the cafe during breaks in rehearsal for an energy-boosting baked potato.
Curve’s unique architectural features inspired their recent Inside Out festival, a ten day programme showcasing some of the best emerging and established artistic talent in the East Midlands. The idea was to bring what goes on inside the region ‘out’. Drama, music, comedy, spoken word and dance from award-winning performers popped up in different places around the building giving the theatre a lively new energy.
In a world where it’s ‘cuts to everything’ this is a timely reminder that the arts are good for the soul, no more evident than in the Three the Hard Way workshop and performances. Delivered by the talented tripartite of Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, MBE, Lydia Towsey and Alison Dunne, groups of writers from various community groups around Leicester worked together and alone to produce poems, prose and songs that dug into different emotional spaces. There were beaming smiles all round as participants read and sang their creations.
Inside Out also featured UK premieres of two plays from India, written following workshops by Royal Court and Rage Theatre in 2011. Pereira’s Bakery at 76 Chapel Road by Ayeesha Menon and OK Tata Bye Bye by Purva Naresh question aspects of culture and heritage, the plays themselves giving opportunities to local actors who have recently trained with companies such as National Youth Theatre as well as workshops with visiting practitioners from the RSC and Central School of Speech and Drama. OK Tata Bye Bye visits a rural Indian village where the oldest profession is also a legal profession, where young women sex workers provide relief to truckers along the highway to Mumbai. Seen through the eyes of a girlfriend/boyfriend documentary team it raises some challenging questions as to the motivations for both film-maker and sex worker as well as language as colourful as the sari silks draped above the stage.
One-woman performance power-house Elaine Pantling, founder of LaurieLorry Theatre Company, infused rock ’n’ roll and love to create The Last Cuppa, a potent brew of pathos and humour. The Last Cuppa is widow Nadine’s love song to her husband – and tea – as she recalls their life together via vivid and convincingly realised characters. It is a well-written piece with some nicely poetic lines; on the subject of tea: “the fixer of all things, elixir of life”.
Throughout the festival Curve’s foyer stage was converted into the Inside Out Park, a wonderfully decadent boudoir of chaise longues, carpets and cushions perfect for lounging and listening to words and music. My only gripe was performances in the RR2 space were affected by the music coming up from the foyer stage, a distraction in what is usually an excellently sound-proofed venue.
Overall, this was an impressive event; many performances were free and charged-for events no more than £10. It is no bad thing to provide new and experienced artists opportunities to perform at this distinctive venue and Curve’s Associate Director and festival organiser Suba Das and his team should be congratulated on bringing together such an eclectic programme.
One of the best things about this festival was the strong sense of supportive enthusiasm between audience and participants, keen to see and share each other’s work. At any given time of day during the festival there was usually something going on, drawing you in with an ‘Oh, what’s that?’. It left a good feeling inside.
Curve Inside Out festival 10 – 19 April
Images by Pamela Raith Photography