“Surprising, subversive, and refreshingly wholesome”, Alasdair Beckett-King kicks off his Nevermore UK tour at The Old Rep in Birmingham

Words by Emily Doyle / Pics by Edward Moore

On Wednesday 27 March, Alasdair Beckett-King kicked off his twenty-seven date UK tour at The Old Rep Theatre in Birmingham.

Beckett-King is a self-styled renaissance man. Audiences are most likely to recognise the waifish stand-up from his appearances on BBC’s Mock the Week – and with his shock of bright red curls, audiences ARE likely to recognise him.

However, his profile reaches beyon panel show appearances; he’s also got a strong following for his YouTube skits, he co-hosts podcast Loremen with fellow comic James Shakeshaft, and his second children’s book Montgomery Bonbon: Death at the Lighthouse was published in October.

Plus, his animation and video game development work sees him credited on a number of indie releases, including the critically acclaimed point-and-click adventure, ‘The Excavation of Hobbs Barrow’. But he’s not here to talk about any of that tonight; instead, he’s going to spend the majority of his show Nevermore explaining why he hates the North Sea.

As an “up-and-coming” comic, Beckett-King doesn’t have the budget for a touring support act, so he fills that role himself. He arrives on stage, little wooden attaché case in hand, and the room warms to him seemingly instantly.

He is verbose yet personable, and his quips about trying to nail down his demographic to the promoter (“I’m popular with men with beards, women in video game t-shirts, and non-binary dungeon masters”) clearly resonates with the crowd.

After some meandering observations and a story about the perils of off-the-beaten-track vegan eateries (which Beckett-King emphatically tells the crowd is NOT about beloved local haunt, Cherry Reds) he leaves for a short break before beginning the show in earnest.

Nevermore is a circuitous and multilayered ramble through Beckett-King’s childhood in the North East of England. It’s a good old fashioned stand up set, full of call backs, and rule-of-three punchlines, punctuated with his trademark AV elements (“that animation took two days! It doesn’t get a laugh but it’s staying in the show, because it took two days!”).

A handful of gleeful non-sequiturs keep the audience on their toes, but more than anything it’s refreshingly wholesome – very few comedians can deliver a more-or-less family-friendly stand up set that still feels fresh, surprising, and subversive.

Beckett-King is a charming on-stage presence, and it’s a joy to follow him into his whimsical world.

Alasdair Becket-King is touring Nevermore across the UK until 24 May. For full tour details and links to online tick sales visit www.abeckettking.com/gigs

For more on Alasdair Beckett-King visit: www.abeckettking.com

For more from The Old Rep Theatre visit: www.oldreptheatre.co.uk

Inglourious Basterds: Lying Lips’ adaptation of ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore is play of freewheeling intensity

Words by Jimmy Dougan /  Production images supplied by Lying Lips Theatre Company – pic of The  Crescent Theatre from Google Maps

Sometimes you have to look at the past to look at the present – and the best way to do this is to make the past feel like the present, which is something director Nathalie Bazán has done with this new production of John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore for Lying Lips Theatre Company.

Adapting Ford’s play, first performed in the 1600’s, Bazán has taken inspiration from the films of Quentin Tarantino, who has more in common with the Jacobean playwright than you’d think: the characters are sometimes deviant, mostly psychopathic, and often die in spectacularly gruesome ways. And both – as this production proves – wrote wonderful parts for women.

It’s an approach which confuses as much as it enlightens; the world surrounding the play is ill-defined, the violence never quite as orgiastic as it promises to be. But it’s full of visceral performances from a fiercely committed cast, who posture and flex before us like deranged supermodels. And when Bazán takes the brakes off it has a freewheeling intensity which drags us to the core of this deeply disturbing drama.

The genius of Ford’s play is that it doesn’t pass judgement on the incestuous love at its heart and trusts the audience to form their own opinions: siblings Giovanni (Chris Cook) and Annabella (Mia Athena Joyce) are unmistakably in love.

Bazán follows suit and directs their early scenes warmly, whilst Cook and Joyce play the strange awkwardness of their predicament beautifully. Cook presents Giovanni as a man so fuelled with longing that he’d warp the teachings of the Church to prove his point, whereas Joyce delivers Annabella as a headstrong young woman simply following her heart. It’s them against the world.

Wonderful too is the subplot concerning the wounded Hippolita (Nikita Sharma), who let her husband die so she could elope with Soranzo (Ross Gilby) only for him to – you guessed it – ditch her to pursue Annabella.

Where other productions treat Hippolita as a comic schemer, Sharma imbues her with a sense of genuine pride, making her more a wounded lioness. And while some in the cast have a tendency to rush their lines, Sharma slows the tempo down so that we hang off her every word. When her character spars with Soranzo (Ross Gilby) sparks genuinely fly.

Gibly plays Soranzo as the sort of coked-up sleaze you’d see roaming Broad Street on a Saturday night, at one point wanking furiously to an image of Annabella. And the sharp contrast adds weight to the narrative; Giovanni might be her brother, but at least he sees her as a person.

Where the production falters is in its commitment to realism, which grounds the performance in reality but neuters the strangeness of Ford’s text. Where, exactly, are we supposed to be?

Tarantino is a master at placing his characters in richly rendered period settings: here we see a brief video-backdrop of what looks like Tokyo’s Shibuya neighbourhood, but the costumes make no attempt to evoke any time or place. And while the violence in Tarantino’s films post-Inglourious Basterds has grown increasingly hysterical, pornographic even, here the violence feels too restrained.

But when I think about this production, I don’t think about the fake knives or blood packs or pretend cocaine snorting. I think about the performances. Rare in fringe-theatre is an ensemble so attuned with each other. They speak the text quickly – no easy feat – which lends the latter half of the evening a relentless intensity.

Bazán manages to make their characters feel like real people, with ambitions and desires and lusts. It has a dreadful, all-encompassing misery. Hell is real, and Bazan puts us in it. Next time, she should let herself take all the credit.

For more on Nathalie Bazán and Lying Lips Theatre Company visit www.nathaliebazan.wixsite.com/nathalie-bazan/lying-lips-theatre-company

Or click on the links to follow Lying Lips Theatre Company on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

For more from The Crescent Theatre, including full programme details and links to online ticket sales, visit https://www.crescent-theatre.co.uk/

First MAC Theatre Commission Award goes to Erdington playwright for project looking at life on Lyndhurst Estate

Words & supporting images by Ed King / Profile pic by Kris Askey

The first ever MAC Theatre Commission Award has been given to Erdington playwright and author CJ Lloyd Webley, to develop a project titled Lyndhurst Memories – exploring the past and present of the Erdington estate.

Recently established to help support local creatives after the Covid pandemic, the MAC Theatre Commission Award will see Webley get a £10,000 grant and 15 days of free studio space at Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) to help him develop his project.

Having grown up on the Lyndhurst, the Erdington writer and social entrepreneur aims to use “immersive storytelling” and even virtual reality to engage an audience and bring the story of the estate to life.

After being granted the award, CJ Lloyd Webley told: “I’m absolutely thrilled to have secured the MAC Theatre Commission for my Lyndhurst Memories project! This opportunity fills me with immense joy and inspiration.

“The project aims to explore and celebrate the rich history and stories of the formerly known Lyndhurst Estate in Erdington. Through immersive storytelling, VR and creative exploration, we’ll delve into the memories, experiences, and legacy of this cherished community.”

He added: “Together with MAC’s team, and the support of other Birmingham creatives, we’ll weave together a narrative that deeply resonates with audiences, capturing the essence of Lyndhurst’s past and present reality.

“I look forward to creating an unforgettable experience that celebrates the unique heritage of Birmingham, while engaging and inspiring our audience.”

Completed in 1960, the Lyndhust Estate was built by George Wimpey’s eponymous construction company for Birmingham City Council to provide quality civic housing after the Second World War.

Replacing a series of luxury Victorian villas, the original estate was comprised of seven tower blocks and a series of maisonettes – winning an award for its architectural qualities and the retention of existing trees and green spaces.

Since the 1980’s the estate became blighted by crime and anti-social behaviour, turning the once proud housing development into a renowned trouble hot spot. However, recent investment has seen new housing built on the estate with semi-detached family homes near the Chester Road.

The MAC Theatre Commission Award was created to support Birmingham creatives and invest in new works and projects.

Jo Carr, MAC Performing Arts Programmer, said: “MAC’s new Theatre Commission is a response to the limited opportunities for independent theatre-makers to make new work with adequate financial support – especially those with no regular funding.

“There is palpable concern in the sector about the future of new writing and contemporary theatre, as well as how to recapture audiences post-pandemic to see this work.”

Jo Carr added: “We are thrilled that the first recipient will be writer, director and performer CJ Lloyd Webley, who will start work on Lyndhurst Memories – a theatre piece about the Lyndhurst Estate in Erdington where he grew up, its eventual decline and re-gentrification.

“We look forward to working with CJ over the coming year and seeing where his story goes.”

For more on CJ Lloyd Webley visit wwwcjlloydwebley.com

For more from Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) visit www.macbirmingham.co.uk

Taking you from fear to frivolity, Mutes release new single ‘Barely Living Proof’

Words by Ed King / Photos by Sam Wood – artwork by Megan Henebury

“Dog-sick with the possibility of another failed escape.”

When you read the lyrics to Mutes’ latest single, ‘Barely Living Proof’, it does not bode well. Beginning with “Force fed eyes” and ending with “Young violence speaks our fall to ruin” you’d be justifiably left a little concerned.

It’s just Mutes, I say, as I contemplate Googling the Samaritans hotline and frontman James Brown’s Facebook profile. No, no. It’ll be fine… let’s just see when he posted last.

But the audio reality of ‘Barely Living Proof’, self-released by Mutes on Friday 29 March, is actually quite joyful. Seriously. Oddly. Joyful. Its message might be the blood-based scrawling of a tortured soul but the tune itself is considerably more blissful.

Sure it’s gritty, dark; a wounded animal in a corner, with vocals that appear to have been sung whilst being suffocated. But it hops, skips, punches, and jumps forward with an almost spring in its step. And as strange as it sounds, The Monkees and The Velvet Underground both crept into my head on the first listen.

Starting with a spangly indie saunter, to expand the metaphor, ‘Barely Living Proof’ builds into more of a determined march over the first half of the track.

Then – at the line at the start of this review – breaks clean in two, leaving fragments of the first half hanging in the air… only to be thrust back together for about a minute and a half of angsty noise rock with a ‘Starla’/Smashing Pumpkins elongated end. And there I go with comparisons again.

But it’s good, really good. Purple prose and clever tropes aside. And if words ‘aint your thing…

The third offering from Mutes’ upcoming album, …buried where you stand, scheduled for release on 17 May this year, ‘Barely Living Proof’ was also recorded at Megatone Studios – Mark Gittin’s musical play pen found lurking beyond the urban wasteland that was once Birmingham Wholesale Markets.

And whilst that may not be the official Google Maps list of directions for the birthplace of Mutes’ new baby, we felt it fits the tone.

Following singles ‘Televangelist’ and ‘Mere Slaughter’, released in Nov ’23 and Feb ’24 respectively, ‘Barely Living Proof’ is in our modest opinion the best yet – carrying with it the sound and scope of the two first releases, but coming in at a considerably longer 4mins 10sec and with an ineffable edge that just gives it the win.

Mutes are no stranger to building tension and, after quite a sharp introduction with ‘Mere Slaughter’, this may well have been the plan all along.

But all three singles are laying a very promising path to …buried where you stand. And if their nine brothers and sisters share even a bit of the family features then there’s going to be significantly impressive album out this May.

We’ve long said it, but Mutes are one of the more pertinent musical outfits to come from Brummagem – and this latest studio album is already looking dangerously promising.

Plus, always worth watching live, Mutes will be showcasing their new album at the Hare and Hounds (Venue 2) on 22 May – with Spits Milt and Stay In Nothing as support. Click here for more info and link to online ticket sales.

Mutes release …buried where you stand on 17 May. For more on Mutes visit www.mutesuk.bandcamp.com

Alasdair Beckett-King kicks off Nevermore UK tour at The Old Rep on 27 March

Words by Ed King / Pics by Edward Moore

On Wednesday 27 March, Alasdair Beckett-King kicks off his new UK tour at The Old Rep Theatre on Station Street in Birmingham City Centre.

Playing shows from Belfast to Exeter, the comedian, writer, animator, occasional computer programmer, and self described ‘gentleman thief’, will be bringing his latest stand-up show, Nevermore, to Birmingham – before heading out to perform another 26 dates across the UK.

Tickets for Alasdair Beckett-King at The Old Rep Theatre cost £18.50, with the show set to start at 7:30pm. At the time of writing only selected seats in the stalls were available – for more direct information and links to online ticket sales, click here.

Hailing from Durham, with a mixed Scottish and English heritage, Alasdair Beckett-King is a multi award winning stand up comedian, who has been a firm fixture on the comedy circuit since 2012 – with several TV panel appearances also under his belt.

Author of the Bonnie Montgomery children’s book series, illustrated by Claire Powell, Beckett-King has built a strong more adult following with writing, performing, and producing an online portfolio of video shorts.

Published via his YouTube channel and social media, the thirty second spoofs take a pop a everything from The Simpsons to Blade Runner – and are, as far as a cursory Google search can identify, the only place on the Internet where you can watch ‘Maggie Thatcher climb a house’. Although we didn’t check the Dark Web.

In his new stand up show, Nevermore, Alasdair Beckett-King will be unravelling ‘life’s shallowest mysteries’.

And with previous questions raised on his YouTube skits including ‘who milks the milkman?’ and ‘do aliens walk among us, but we can’t see then because their standing behind us?’, the show is set to be both informative and funny. They do say every day is a school day.

Tickets are selling fast for Alasdair Beckett-King’s UK tour opener at The Old Rep Theatre in Birmingham, with a recommended age restriction of 14 years.

And if you need a bit more of a nudge…

Alasdair Beckett-Kings will be performing his new stand up show, Nevermore, at The Old Rep Theare in Birmingham on Wednesday 27 March. Click here for more information and links to online tickets sales.

For more on Alasdair Beckett-King visit: www.abeckettking.com

For more from The Old Rep Theatre visit: www.oldreptheatre.co.uk