Reviewer: Mel Duncan
Imagine a world where one is whisked from the bygone factories of Northern England, to the open plains of the Great West, via a Titanic-esque liner, accompanied by foundry bells. All in a matter of minutes. That is a glimpse into the brilliantly bonkers experience that is Hoof!
The brainchild of Rejects Revenge and Spike Theatre, Hoof! is spontaneous theatre…and then some. Initial training alongside Todd Stashwick and John Thies, huge on the American spontaneous theatre scene, Hoof! has been fuelled with British humour and convention, to bring a unique strain of the artform. Hoof! must be experienced to be fully appreciated.
In two short acts, the company create two brand new plays, which will never be repeated. The audience are coerced into truanting their normally sane lives, and are whisked away into a shared imagination of utter madness. At all times engaged, Immersed and included in the action. A stunning cast – Glenn Noble, John Garfield-Roberts, Ann Farah, Keddy Sutton, Mark Smith, Joff Chafer, And Elinor Randle, captivate our undivided attention, with ease and flair. And seem to have as much fun as we do!
The six strong cast are so versatile, sensing the direction in which the piece is ever shifting, chiming in (literally at times) with helpful and insightful additions to the story. Keddy Sutton is a stunning actress to watch- this style of theatre is so clearly enjoyable to her, and plays to her strengths as a performer. In addition to the mammoth task asked of these actors developing the threads of narrative with no prior study, she is able to throw in witty, tongue-in-cheek, in-jokes from earlier in the play and insightful observations, pushing the performance to a far more sophisticated and complete level than would sometimes be possible given a rehearsal period.
Glen Noble is instrumental in bringing the diverse narrative threads together, his performance constantly throwing in hooks for the ensemble to hang linking ideas on. The mind boggles as the puzzle pieces begin to fit together- in forty minutes the stories make complete and utter sense!
An extra layer is added to the performance from the musicians at the side – Simon James and Tom Wilson. Upon entering the theatre, the audience is greeted with a blank canvas in terms of set, with one exception. An innocuous looking chair is surrounded by all manner of instruments- largely percussion, but with the addition of an acoustic guitar, clarinet, and soprano sax. Two musicians occupy this space, and create a seamless tapestry of sound, supporting and guiding the process sympathetically and creatively, chopping in ideas alongside the cast. The use of instruments was impressive, but not so much as the use of voice. Whole soundscapes were created using interesting microphone and voice techniques- the master and his apprentice are every bit as visually stunning to watch as the cast!
This ensemble radiates a true sense of family- the more experienced actors in this artform bringing along and inspiring the younger members. Their delight in each others’ triumphs was so evident. John Garfied-Roberts, one of the younger performers on stage looked every bit at home as the founding cast members. He brought in some wonderful pivot points to the performance, his Masonic father was a real hit with the audience, and was revisited by the cast, surely a stamp of approval from all.
In such a performance, there are no cues and there is no book for the technical team to follow. They rose spectacularly to this challenge, and the lighting was as much a part of the performance as any of the on stage work. Credit must be given to the excellent team behind the desk- Phil Saunders and Julie Kearney.
I challenge you to find a more engaging and enjoyable few hours
Runs until 5th April 2014