THEATRE AT HOME REVIEW: Common Lore ★★★★

Common Lore
King Street Studios, Newcastle
Saturday 25th April 2020 (Live Streamed Performance)

Following on from the streamed performance held on Stute Theatre’s website and youtube page over the weekend, recorded live from King Street Studios in Newcastle, it’s abundantly clear as to why resident performer Sophia Hatfield won the Breakthrough Performance of The Year 2019 by Rural Touring Awards; her excelling nature to entertain and capture the imagination for an audience through her talents in storytelling and musical nature is a true gift to watch through the screen, and if Common Lore was to resume it’s tour following the lockdown, I would most definitely recommend trying to catch it wherever possible.

As we follow 18 year old Scarlett through her repetitive life of bus journeys to her nan’s, as well as her love life taking an unexpected and quite worrying turn after swiping right on a certain dating app, Sophia propels us into Scarlett’s world that so many rural towns may recognise; knowing that the production has previously played in libraries and schools, it must definitely hit a cord with its audience, and through the use of a loop pedal conducted by Hatfield through her speech and violin musicality, you could see this going down a hit within the educational sector.

April Dalton’s grungy set design simply features four various sized fragile-taped moving boxes in front of a rancid backdrop of slime and moss pinned around grey-scale square, but this perfectly allows Richard Hand’s graphic designs to be showcased against the wall, heightening senses and locations such as Mcdonald’s, the bus stop, and the mysterious Mr F’s house, the love interest of our protagonist. There are even some artistically stunning silhouette cut-outs in the form of a pop up book, which don’t get much stage time as you’d hope, but never-the-less will be imprinted in your mind, along with a model house that lights up from the inside, depicting a turn in Scarlett’s story where she starts to worry for others wellbeing.

With Rihard James Neale taking up the movement of the piece, whilst Bryn Holding reins the directional scope, the performance evolves as a result with such precision and slick movement choreographed into Hatfield’s dialogue that makes the whole production feel like a fine-tuned factory, with every clog moving at an exceptional pace that allows the performance to run smoothly. Hatfield’s versatility also should be commended for the sheer attention to the roles that she embodies throughout, most notably in the two fairy tales, where she weaves effortlessly from the two mirroring brothers in ‘A Wise Girl’, but again in ‘Little Red Fish and The Clog of Gold’, where she recounts the tale of Ashleigh, who works in her family’s very own takeaway shop. The fairy tales themselves do come across a bit confusing as to their true nature and meaning in the wider scale of the whole piece, but can easily be forgiven due to the talents of Hatfield, Holding, and Neale in providing entertainment and bringing them both to life in very opposing and unique ways.

Overall, Common Lore is an exceptionally fast paced and beautifully woven solo performance piece written and starring Sophia Hatfield that has you darting from one location to another against April Dalton’s Set and Richard Hand’s compelling projection designs, whilst Richard James Neale and Bryn Holding’s pivotal involvement heightens the visual precision in timing, keeping you on the edge of your seat throughout, and ultimately making this production an absolute must see!

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