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Review: Happenchance Theatre’s ‘On Wings’ at the Old Joint Stock Theatre
Culture critic Lydia Waller reviews the 'innovative and charming' On Wings at the Old Joint Stock.
Happenchance Theatre Company is a small body of actors, improvisers and comedians, extending their graduate days at the University of Birmingham together in their experimental theatre company based in Birmingham. Currently consisting of 12 members, and seeking to grow more, the young company are testing the waters with new spaces, genres and new twists every night in their performance. Nothing is ever done exactly the same way twice.
‘On Wings’ is a charming short play injected with comedy, the subtleties of romance and just generally the intention to have a good night with the audience. Although smaller-budget, Happenchance utilise the bare minimum and the crucial aspect of audience attentiveness to unfold the story of two comedic writers in a relationship, Eva and James. The seamless two-man show/sketch toys with the boundaries of human vulnerability in the arts and using oneself or others as a muse for ridicule, yet the most progressive element of the play’s narrative are the peaks and troughs in the two comedians’ relationship, challenging gendered dynamics, humility and sacrifice, all within the confines of this hour-long comedy sketch. “
“'the young company are testing the waters with new spaces, genres and new twists every night in their performance...'
What makes this short-play innovative and witty is the lack of distinction between the sketches the character Eva directed at her audience, and her intentional interaction with the present audience and James. At the beginning of the play, Eva’s breaking of the fourth wall to go into the tech box was hard to distinguish as either intentional or improvised, due to the nature of Vita Fox’s performance and the black box theatre; however, this may be part of the ambiguity and improvised nature of Happenchance that the audience learn to love. The unpredictability of the company and its production make Happenchance an exciting company to watch for future creations.
The proxemics of the Old Joint Stock Theatre’s auditorium, seating approximately 50 people, instantly creates an intimacy and relaxed dynamic between audience and actors. This stage set-up coincides perfectly with the improvised and relaxed nature of the comedy play, physically asking the audience to be patient and cooperative with whatever innovation the actors decide to pursue on the night. The comedic and touching relationship, portrayed with the bare minimum of a stand-up mic and a mock bottle of wine, is so charming and humble that one cannot help but smile at the slowly disintegrating yet hilarious relationship of James and Eva. There is a brief touching on the role of feminism and gender in comedy and the creative industry, which is very fitting to the narrative of a successful female comedian and the sensitivities of a male performer also. The highlighting of masculine vulnerability was a relevant social comment on our predominantly male comedic landscape today. “
“'an exciting company to watch for future creations...'
Happenchance, despite being new and slightly unpolished in the extent of their improvisation, have created an innovative and charming piece that guarantees the audience laughs and silliness, which is sometimes exactly what the doctor ordered.
More information on Happenchance Theatre and 'On Wings' can be found here.